New Zealand Rugby has used the Black Ferns' celebration as a platform to push for more commercial support in order to properly fund the women's game.

One month after clinching their fifth world title with victory over England in Ireland, the Black Ferns' unrivalled success was toasted in Auckland on Thursday as a host of local schools, friends and family gathered at the Vodafone Events Centre to create a festival atmosphere.

While the theme was paying tribute, with the team's internal band even performing a song about captain Fiao'o Fa'amausili on stage, another undercurrent could not be missed.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff immediately tackled the elephant in the room when he said: "We don't pay you like professionals but by god you are professional."


"I love the Black Ferns" signs were handed out to kids on the way in but after the ceremony one man's banner stood out. It read: "Step up NZRU. Gender equality. Fund travel recognition."

New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey, speaking in the absence of chief executive Steve Tew who is in Florida supporting his daughter at the rowing world championships, did not shy away from the subject in his address, pledging to capatlise on team's momentum.

"You've inspired something in New Zealand Rugby and for other Black Ferns going forward," Impey said.

"This is a challenge for all of us at New Zealand Rugby. We are absolutely committed to growing the women's game. We can't do it alone. We need partners; we need public agencies. It's great the Auckland Council and government are here today. We need sponsors and we need broadcasters but we will do it. This is the group that is going to inspire us."

In the aftermath of NZR's Respect and Responsibility review Impey said the Black Ferns were leaders in that department, too.

Outside their on-field feats, the Black Ferns either work or study which precluded many of the squad from attending the celebration.

Retiring skipper Fa'amausili, who has now won four of her five World Cups, went straight back to her day job after the tournament. Between work, renovations and studying for a police exam in December, she has yet to have a chance to watch the final again.

"We're so driven," Fa'amausili said. "We don't get everything handed to us but we make sure we go out there and wear that jersey with pride. Anyone that puts on that fern, whether you get paid or not, you are driven by representing your country, family and yourself. The character that comes out of everyday life creates this team."


Speaking to the Herald after his speech, Impey acknowledged while sevens had a clear pathway much work remained in the women's XV's arena. The Black Ferns were paid $2,000 per-week while in camp. The All Blacks, by comparison, earn $7,500.

"The challenge is to go further. To do that just like in the men's game you've got to bring commercial realism into it. New Zealand Rugby can't do it alone.

"We probably need some government agency support so we can give it a momentum. There's no doubt women's sport is the biggest global growth on the planet. Rugby as a team game is growing and the women's game is a very large part of that.

"The answer is yes we need to do it. We've got some ideas around it but we do need some partners."

Impey said the plan is to create proposals to send out to potential supporters and, eventually, bridge the gap between the provincial and international game.

"It may be something new. If you look at the success of the men's game; schools, clubs, provincial unions and Super Rugby franchises through to national teams. The same applies here.

"Maybe it's an intermediary step which is where you have to commercialise. There's no doubt we'll get there at some point the question is timing and the right commercial model."