New Zealand's top female rugby players have received a financial boost with the announcement of a Black Ferns Professional Performance Programme in Wellington today.
Under the terms of the programme, 30 players will be employed by New Zealand Rugby on a Black Ferns contract which includes a guaranteed retainer, assembly fees and other benefits.
The top seven players will receive a retainer of $20,000, with a further seven gaining $17,500, another seven $15,000 and the remaining nine players $12,500 each.
Further to that, players selected to the Black Ferns squad will assemble for approximately 50 days per year for training camps and fixtures for which they will be paid $2,000 per week, adding another $14 – 15,000 to their potential earnings.
A further $100,000 will be made available from a newly-created Black Ferns Legacy Fund and allocated across the 30-person squad.
Members of the 2017 World Cup winning Black Ferns squad will also receive a one-off gross payment of $10,000 to become a Rugby World Cup legacy ambassador which will see them undertake an agreed amount of promotional activity to help promote and grow rugby.
Under the terms of the contract, players will be expected to devote 10-14 hours per week to rugby, leaving them free to pursue study or career opportunities outside rugby.
The programme is decentralised, meaning that in most cases, players are able to remain in their place of residence and complete their training and rugby activities under the guidance of their provincial union.
Also included is a parental policy which allows for players who return to the programme after having a baby to have a support person of their choice travel with them to look after their child during squad assembly.
In line with other NZR contracts, the players will receive medical and life insurance and the opportunity to join the Players Savings Scheme and KiwiSaver.
In addition to the 30 contracted players, a further 20 will be included in a wider training squad.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the move to professionalism for the women's game was "exciting".
"Men's rugby had to go 100 years before it went professional," Hansen said.
"It was inevitable that it was going to happen for women's rugby so the sooner the better. It will create a working opportunity pathway for young ladies or young girls who may want to play the sport.
"They'll benefit from the fact that men's rugby has been professional for a while so hopefully they'll learn the lessons that have had to be learned in the men's game through professionalism."