Who should lead the New Zealand Rugby independent review?

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and NZRU CEO Steve Tew. Photo / File
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and NZRU CEO Steve Tew. Photo / File

Crisis manager Glenda Hughes says she would be available to be part of New Zealand Rugby's independent panel reviewing the organisation's culture if asked to.

Hughes, the chairwoman of the TAB board, a former national athletics champion, ex-police officer and also a PR expert who has looked after the likes of Sir Mark Todd during crisis times, told Fairfax Media she would be prepared to help if NZR felt she could bring some value to the panel.

She also suggested a host of others that NZR should approach including former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga, recently retired Silver Ferns netball coach Wai Taumaunu and sexual violence victims advocate Louise Nicholas as candidates.

"I'd be prepared to look at it as an area of interest to me because I've worked with athletes since 1991," she told Fairfax.

"It's behavioural," Hughes added of the issues facing rugby. "We need people who have worked with athletes, who understand them.

"We need people who call it as it is, who have empathy with these young men. It's around how men behave.

"These guys have to feel comfortable about who is leading this, people who talk their language. It's the delivery of the message that has to be right."

NZR confirmed on Thursday night that it had started a process designed towards appointing an independent panel to look at the issue but no members had yet been appointed.

The announcement is hardly a surprise. While the All Blacks are enjoying a stellar year on-the-field, the game has been plagued by off-field dramas over the past few months and is reeling from the public black eye it has received as a result.

The Chiefs stripper saga, where NZR was criticised for not running an independent inquiry, along with the Lose Filipo court controversy, Aaron's Smith's highly-publicised indiscretion at Christchurch Airport and other off-field misdemeanours in recent weeks.

The string of unsavoury events inspired the Human Rights Commission to pen an open letter to NZR boss Steve Tew entitled 'Love Rugby, Respect Women'. Signatories included Equal Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue and former Black Fern and current MP Louisa Wall.

Both have welcomed the NZR initiative and it will be interesting to see if they are considered for the panel.

Here are some of the other leading contenders......

Louisa Wall: Wall has played the game of course. She represented the Black Ferns and is also a former Silver Fern netballer. Now cutting her way in politics since becoming a Labour MP in 2008, and having held the sport portfolio for the party in the past, Wall has a lot to offer an independent inquiry. She is also actively involved in the issues, having been a signature to the Human Rights Commission's open letter to New Zealand Rugby.

Anne Hare: A former Olympic runner, Hare has tried several times unsuccessfully to gain a position on New Zealand Rugby's board of directors. She says she has never even been granted an interview. Hare is outspoken and not afraid to share her views. She has previously sat on the boards of Athletics NZ and the NZ Olympic Committee.

Jackie Blue: The current Equal Oppportunities Commissioner, Blue is already invested in the bid to clean up rugby's image. She was the architect behind the Human Rights Commission's letter and also publicly called upon Tew to address "the culture issues within the organisation and the sport". The former National Party MP would undoubtedly welcome an involvement with the independent panel.

Susan Devoy: Our former world champion squash ace now cuts her teeth as our Race Relations Commissioner for New Zealand. She has shown in that role that she is not afraid to take on sacred cows.

Professor Judy McGregor: A former journalist of fierce renown, she is also a trained lawyer. Professor McGregor is the current head of the School of Social Sciences and Public Policy. She is also a former Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission. Her specific interests lie in discrimination issues, women's rights, gender equality in governance, management professional and public life, equal pay and the employment of ethnic and minority groups.

Therese Walsh: Ran a brilliant Cricket World Cup in terms of the NZ involvement in 2015 and worked on RWC 2011 hosting rights and tournament execution. Bright and vivacious. Currently the deputy chairwoman of TVNZ, Walsh is media-savvy, a clear thinker and most importantly, can hold her own in even the most male-dominated bastions.

Joan Withers: Self-made businesswoman who now chairs TVNZ among a host of other corporate board responsibilities. Withers is a former CEO of Fairfax Media, so understands media pressure and expectations.

Jenny Shipley: New Zealand's first female PM. Shipley loves the game - and a challenge. Fixing rugby's broken public image is certainly one of those.

Liz Dawson: Dawson was the first New Zealand woman to gain a CEO job in Australian league, heading the now defunct Adelaide Rams in the ill-fated Super League. Dawson has since returned to New Zealand and is actually a part owner of the Hurricanes, meaning she is already involved in rugby. Dawson is also on the board of the Canes and the New Zealand Olympic Committee.

But there should also be men on the independent panel....but men who get it. Once of those is former All Blacks legend Fergie McCormick.

Fergie McCormick: The former goal-kicking All Blacks fullback is a passionate supporter of women's rugby. He coaches the Lindwood women's team at his beloved club in Christchurch and was a member of Dr Judy McGregor's previously mentioned team that looked into Human Rights around rugby. McCormick says "women don't get much of a say. They don't get the recognition they deserve."

McCormick is keen to support the appointment of a woman to the NZRU Board and at all other levels of rugby. "I'd dearly love to see a woman on the NZRU Board," he says, "but she'd have to stand her ground."

- NZ Herald

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