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NZR women's failings laid bare

New Zealand Rugby has published its report into the high-performance environment surrounding the Black Ferns following last year’s disastrous Northern tour.

New Zealand Rugby has published its report into the high-performance environment surrounding the Black Ferns following last year’s disastrous Northern tour.

The detailed report sets out 26 recommendations under seven themes and is damning about the state of the environment around the team and the way the programme is being run.

In sections it is remarkably similar to a report published by Ireland last month it makes clear that remarkably there is “no clear or consistent high-performance vision, practices or mindset” in the team; that players needed education on the responsibilities and expectations required of them in a high-performance environment; and that the Ferns required a “long-term, sustainable, high-performing and inclusive culture” with alignment between players and management.

It is also critical of how the communication in and around the team works, with practices around selection, contracting and cultural sensitivities falling way short of expectations.

In a particularly difficult section of the report, it explores the support and treatment of Black Fern Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate who alleged inappropriate comments and language used by head coach Glenn Moore on last year’s tour.

The report says that though it was clear that the player was seriously struggling with her mental health on the tour, there were no mental health check-ins on her for the duration of her stay in managed isolation when she got back, and concludes that overall the player was not well managed, or monitored, and that the challanges she was facing should have been escalated.

"The Review team is of the view that what occurred to Te Kura that night (and in the following days) was not well managed, or monitored, and should have been escalated. After being released from MIQ in New Zealand, Te Kura received a call from the NZR Contracts Manager advising her that she was not being contracted for the 2022 World Cup season. The person who called was not able to give any reasons for Te Kura’s non-selection.  As a result of Te Kura’s wairua being detrimentally affected and in the absence of any tangible reasons for her being ‘dropped’ (as she put it), Te Kura’s feelings of isolation, ‘ghosting’, not being a ‘favourite’, only deepened and she felt she had nothing to lose (and nowhere else to turn) but to go public with her concerns."

There is also a damning section about how the head coaches and management of the team are selected.

“Poor recruitment processes by NZR have meant that many of the coaches and management were appointed without a fair or contestable process (often being ‘shoulder tapped’) and this leads to questions about ‘how they got the job’”, it says.

It adds that many of the did not have up to date job descriptions or regular ‘check-ins’ or performance reviews and that there was little induction of Management in relation to cultural considerations and engagement, or on working with female athletes.

Remarkably, head coach Glenn Moore, who oversaw the environment and programme is retained in his role.

NZR CEO Mark Robinson said NZR will work towards implementing the panel’s recommendations.

“No-one should be in any doubt about our commitment to the progression of women’s rugby in this country. This report highlights that we haven’t got everything right and we apologise for not having provided all the tools for our people to succeed.

“The Black Ferns have been great ambassadors for rugby; they have won five of seven Rugby World Cups since their inception and have added considerably to the mana and legacy of New Zealand Rugby in that time; the current group of players and management are part of this,” said Robinson.

The full report is available here

Key findings of the review:

  • * Challenges exist in the Black Ferns' high performance environment, with the transition to a semi-professional model;
  • * The culture among the players is strong, but is not fully aligned with management;
  • * Management structures do not always appropriately support the Black Ferns’ culture and environment;
  • * Player leadership structure is positive but needs refinement;
  • * Significant communication issues exist between players, coaches, management and players' union;
  • * Health and wellbeing gaps in the environment for players and management;