Next week's Budget is expected to reveal details of a third-phase sports funding package that includes targeted investment for the vulnerable women's sector.
Submissions to the Epidemic Response Committee (ERC) this week laid bare the crippling blow the Covid-19 pandemic has dealt women's sport in New Zealand, with fears made clear that a generation of athletes could be lost unless targeted government funding is immediately provided.
As revenue streams freeze, mass redundancies hit and professional sports bodies face widespread financial turmoil, the Warriors were the first to confirm they are reconsidering funding for their women's side, but they are far from alone.
New Zealand Rugby is also understood to be considering costs aligned to their female domestic competition, the Farah Palmer Cup, and the women's sevens team that has been integral in inspiring the overall rise in rugby participation numbers.
Netball New Zealand chief executive Jennie Wyllie, in her address to the ERC, took aim at the "systemic inequities" and underinvestment in women's sport she said totalled hundreds of millions over decades. Wyllie also claimed the $25m government package won't be paid until July which was too late for netball.
Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson told the Herald that Budget day was the usual juncture to reveal specific announcements but he confirmed there would be a rolling maul of initiatives, with women in sport firmly top of mind.
"I made this my top priority as Minister so my commitment to that hasn't waned or changed. In the discussions we've been having with sporting bodies we've been talking about needing to support women in sport participating but also to be valuable and visible," Robertson said.
"I'm critically aware and that's one of the issues I'm taking into account. The worst of all outcomes for New Zealand could be a generation of people drift out of sport.
"I agree with the analysis that women's sport is not valued to the point it should be – and that's why we've already put resources in there.
"We'll be rolling out those packages over the next couple of months so hopefully from sport's perspective we'll be able to do that as soon as possible."
Robertson admitted concern for those female athletes whose economic circumstances had become more precarious – those who, as a direct result of the global pandemic, were sacrificing sport in order to gain more hours to support their families.
"We're very aware of those groups that are put on the margins or made vulnerable within sporting communities so that's very much part of our thinking."
Robertson held recent conversations with NZ Rugby where he specifically raised the Farah Palmer Cup's importance.
"We're hosting the World Cup next year so we must have our elite players at the level that will put them in a place to win a tournament that will, if we do this well, set women in New Zealand rugby up for a generation.
"We're aware of it, they're aware of it, and we're working alongside them to see what is the best way to support them."
Asked if the Government's next phase funding package would extend to targeting specific teams or individuals, Robertson said: "We're considering a range of options for this package. We'll need to target some funding to get the kinds of outcomes we want, but we also have a strong expectation on those national sporting organisations to do the right thing.
"My job is to now look ahead over the next year or 18 months as we rebuild society and the economy, what that looks like for sport and recognising that a lot of funding sources are gone; recognising there's a need for more beyond these short-term measures to really set us on a path for sport to continue playing its really important role in our communities."
The women's Rugby World Cup is scheduled to be held from mid-September to October next year in Auckland and Whangarei and Robertson attempted to damper speculation the tournament is under threat due to border and travel restrictions.
"Everybody is questioning that but it's sufficiently far away that we can continue to plan for it. Travel is clearly an issue but as we look towards the tournament, the timing is such that it could be one event that begins to bring people back into that sort of travelling, but there's an awful lot of water that has to go under the bridge before we can be certain about that."