The Black Ferns know all too well the added pressure that comes with being the home team at a World Cup.
Just eight months ago, they were in the same position in which the Football Ferns now find themselves – hosting a World Cup in their sport.
Sold-out crowds and increased media coverage are everything female athletes dream of but they bring heightened expectations to win.
The Black Ferns experienced this first hand when they took out the Women’s Rugby World Cup in November last year – and this week they’ve witnessed the Football Ferns go through similar experiences hosting the football Women’s World Cup.
“It can be quite daunting to have a World Cup at home,” said Black Fern Liana Mikaele Tu’u. However, she hopes the Football Ferns will “embrace it”.
“Everyone talks about pressure, but I would say it’s just a privilege – you have your own communities, your own family, your own friends coming to watch you.
“Cherish the fact that you get to play for your country in front of your country, in front of your family and friends – it was really special for us to have a World Cup at home.”
Black Ferns lock Maiakawanakaulani Roos said the hometown support could strengthen the Football Ferns.
“Pressure can make diamonds ... It’s so special to be able to play at home – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a World Cup at home.”
The 21-year-old said fans need to be understanding of the path and direction these Football Ferns are coming from, instead of crucifying the side following Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat to the Philippines.
“Look at how much growth that they’ve developed,” she said.
Though aware of how hard it can be for the home team, the Black Ferns said there are many positives that come out of hosting a tournament of this scale.
Tu’u said the tournament gives Kiwi fans a front-row seat to greatness, which helps inspire young people. It also helps create better opportunities to grow the game commercially – with the Black Ferns now standing alongside the All Blacks in some of New Zealand Rugby’s (NZR) biggest partnerships.
The Black Ferns were speaking as part of the launch of an NZR partnership with Uber.
Roos said it meant a great deal for the Black Ferns to be part of commercial partnerships alongside the All Blacks.
“It means more money, more resources for us to continue to grow.”
She said to have partners that want to sign with both All Blacks and Black Ferns is “really cool” and highlighted the growth of the women’s game.
“We’ll be able to be seen by more people and then seen by little girls or even little boys who want to play rugby and so that we can keep the game thriving in New Zealand.”