As a 5-year-old, I remember having two pairs of bright red socks. I would wear them proudly to school, where I'd sit on the mat with my classmates as our teacher showed us the full-page newspaper pictures of Black Magic socking it (pun intended) to Stars and Stripes. It was thrilling to experience such an iconic moment in New Zealand sporting history. Peter Blake and Russell Coutts (as they were known before their knighthoods) became our childhood heroes.

The excitement was repeated in the year 2000, when we wiped the Waitemata with Luna Rossa. During that year, my best friend Chloe and I constructed a model boat of our own for the school America's Cup competition, to be sailed on the choppy waters of the Glenholme Primary School swimming pool. With a black hull and black sails, it was dubbed, imaginatively, Black Magic. History was repeated that hot summer's day, when our tiny Team New Zealand (a rag-tag bunch of small plastic figurines, loaned by Chloe's younger sister) made it into the final round, outpacing the competition to take the title.

When you grow up in New Zealand, sport is in the air you breathe. National pride is found on the field, on the water; anywhere that we can take on bigger, stronger and better-funded nations and come out on top.

I've been a fan of New Zealand sport since I sat in a walker in front of the television, utterly entranced by the Commonwealth Games lawn bowls competition in 1990. I felt similarly enraptured this week. The Black Ferns Sevens won the World Series, the Black Sticks made it into the quarterfinals of the World League, the White Ferns were at the top of the table of the Cricket World Cup, the All Blacks beat the Lions and of course, Team New Zealand won the America's Cup.


It's been a great week to be a Kiwi. But ...

A strange thing happened on Monday. It was the day before Team New Zealand stormed to victory in Bermuda. The Black Ferns Sevens had won the World Series overnight, claiming back a title they'd lost only once since its inception in 2012, while Team New Zealand had won two races in the early hours of the morning, leaving them at match point. Can you guess which story was given prominence - the World Series victory or the match point?

I'll give you a clue. Turn to the sports section of any newspaper or news website, watch or listen to a sports bulletin on the television or radio and count the number of stories about women's sport. Now count the number of stories about men's sport. Ten points to anyone who can guess which number will be higher.

Women's sport has come a long way, but the treatment it receives remains an anachronism in a world striving for gender equality. In sport, male is the default. Compare, for example, the names of major international tournaments. The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series refers to the men's tournament, while the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series is the name of the women's tournament. The ICC Cricket World Cup of course refers to the men's competition, while the ICC Women's World Cup is the name of the women's.

Women's sport has come a long way, but the treatment it receives remains an anachronism in a world striving for gender equality.


The implication is galling. The difference between men's and women's teams, according to the language used to describe them, is that the All Blacks and the Black Caps play "sport", while the Black Ferns and the White Ferns play "women's sport".

Arguably, the most significant factor is money. Elite men's sport, with its enormous, gender-diverse fan base, and extensive media coverage, attracts huge sponsorship money and broadcast fees, while many elite women's sports struggle even to achieve a level of funding that would allow their players to become professionals.

A number of elite female athletes find themselves in a situation where they have to have a day job in order to make ends meet. For example, in 2013, the salary range for the Silver Ferns ranged from just $4000 to $40,000. The captain, Casey Kopua, was eligible for a salary of $56,000, provided she played every game, making her by far the highest-paid netballer in the country. I would imagine Richie McCaw's salary for the same time period was many, many times that.

It was announced last year that the 15 top White Ferns players would receive a 100 per cent pay rise - up from a measly $10,000-$12,000 to a lofty (sarcasm) pay packet of $20,000-$34,000 a year. In contrast, the top Black Caps players receive $205,266. The lowest-ranking Black Cap makes $85,585 plus match fees. The worst Black Cap is valued at more than twice the level of the best White Fern. Farcical.

There is a certain irony in the chicken and egg situation female athletes find themselves in. Without a large fan base, the media won't give elite women's sport the coverage it deserves. But without media coverage, how is women's sport meant to attract a large fan base? And without large fan bases or prominent media coverage, how can women's sport attract sponsors and broadcasters?

As it stands, the status quo, whether conscious or subconscious, is unacceptable. Women's sport deserves better coverage, better sponsorship, better viewership and, most of all, better pay. Though we are rightly proud of Team New Zealand and the All Blacks, we should be just as proud of the Black Ferns.

Our female athletes are doing incredible things, and they are exciting to watch. From the ferocity and speed of elite netball to the grit and heart of elite rugby, New Zealand's top female teams put on a riveting show. As a long-time fan of New Zealand sport, I yearn for the day when we'll support men's and women's teams equally - imagine how great it'd be to have a women's division of the America's Cup.

But, as for the situation we find ourselves in now, where women's sport is forever the underdog ... It's just not cricket.