It will be a landmark day for women's rugby tomorrow when improved pay deals for the Black Ferns are revealed.

It will be a sign that progress is being made in the quest to better reflect the high performance nature of the Blacks Ferns and the commitment the athletes make.

And it will indeed be tangible proof the mostly male executive running rugby in this country have realised that actions speak considerably louder than words when it comes to the issue of addressing gender inequality.

But no one should label this anything other than a tentative first step on a journey that can't end until there is equality between men's and women's rugby in every facet - when there are mirror-image professional competitions and no discrepancies in pay packets. That world still feels like it is light years away. And it is possibly even a world that not everyone who should feels like it is one they need to create.


Making direct comparisons is the most compelling reason to indulge in only the briefest celebration of what has been achieved in regard to the Black Ferns.

This year, the leading female players are likely to earn between $30,000 and $45,000. This is a huge increase on last year, yet still not enough - not really - for anyone to go about giving up their day job.

The best women players in this country will continue to have to hold down meaningful employment while fitting in their training.

Meanwhile, in the men's game, there are players barely out of their teens such as Damian McKenzie and Rieko Ioane who are being rewarded, or will be, with contracts worth in the vicinity of $600,000-$700,000 a year.

The argument about male players being connected to a global market place has validity and so also is it true that the best players are involved in competitions that run from February to November which generate millions, if not billions, in broadcast and sponsorship revenue.

But that shouldn't justify the inequality - it should serve as motivation for NZR to work tirelessly to create a similarly lucrative structure in the women's game.

2 Mar, 2018 3:00pm
2 minutes to read

For the past five years, all everyone has done is endlessly moan about how bad Super Rugby is and yet sponsors continue to be found and broadcast deals go up.

No one can seriously argue there wouldn't be massive interest in an equivalent female competition - one where the people running it can learn from all the mistakes made by the male version.

The inequality landscape will be best viewed, however, next month when NZR unveils more detail about its financial performance in 2017.

We know NZR made a record $33 million profit from a record $257m of income. Figures out next month will reveal how much of that windfall was invested in the women's game.

The best guess is that NZR pumped somewhere between $10m and $15m into women's rugby last year.

This figure probably compares favourably to previous years and indeed against other nations, but it equates to barely 5 per cent of the total expenditure.

And it seems particularly out of whack when there are in excess of 20,000 women playing rugby in New Zealand and that the fastest growing demographic in terms of participation is girls aged 5-13.

If the growth trends continue as they are, it won't be so long before there are more girls playing rugby than boys.