When Abby Erceg walked away from the Football Ferns almost 12 months ago, she cited an issue that fellow Northlander Portia Woodman has brought up consistently - the professionalism of female sport.

Pay disputes have been a hot topic in the last year as female athletes look to garner compensation for their commitment to a national sporting setup.

Whether it is Erceg and the Football Ferns or Portia Woodman and rugby or the many others who've stood up in the name of pay, their vocalisation of a tough issue seems to be pushing progress.

Erceg is returning to the Football Ferns fold for a pair of international friendlies against Scotland. There have been some vital changes that have brought this about.

Advertisement

There has been a response to things she brought up when she retired - namely bringing in a development programme for young players and a potential world-first collective bargaining agreement to provide equal conditions for male and female international players.

Erceg's stand is one to admire.

At 28, the Whangarei defender closed the door on an international career that had included three trips to the Olympics and three women's World Cups.

And it wasn't as if she was a fringe player. Erceg was their leader. Their captain.

Erceg stood up for her teammates again off the field after doing so on it for years.

New Zealand sport has rarely seen a stand like this taken by a lead figure in a code.

It took a lot of courage and showed how much the game meant to her.

Woodman, while not ever retiring, has done similar things in women's rugby over the last few months.

Any chance she gets, the Kaikohe winger stands up for the maligned women's game which has been far more exciting than the men's version in the last year or so.

Both Erceg and Woodman have taken a tough stance in the name of equality. It's an admirable cause that won't come without hurdles.

But it's what sport needs. A strong, determined female voice looking to gain, if not equal, but fair pay for the amount of work they undertake.

It's hard to imagine Beauden Barrett or Winston Reid taking leave from an everyday job to represent their country. They'll never have to go through that ordeal.

But sportswoman do. And as Erceg, Woodman and the like have said countless times, it's about time they get paid.