I interviewed a couple of the Black Ferns on telly when they returned last year from the world cup. They had arrived that afternoon on an Emirates flight and had stayed up for us that night. They were shattered.
I, perhaps foolishly and certainly naively, asked if they hadn't managed to get any sleep on the plane. They replied how hard it was down the back, and they had come on the non-stop Dubai leg: 17 hours. I was genuinely in shock that a world champion side, in a sport like rugby, in a country like New Zealand, was flying at the back of the plane.
No, they didn't get paid, we all knew that. And we broadly all knew the reasons why. But I had assumed, obviously naively, that they would get some expenses covered, a match or tournament fee, and a proper seat on a plane. No such luck.
So the deal announced by NZ Rugby is years overdue, and more than well deserved, and one can only hope leads to a genuine aspiration by an increasing number of young people who will see rugby as a proper future and means of making a living.
Mind you, one of the quirks of the overall argument is that sports are held back in terms of success and performance by them remaining amateur. Recruitment becomes an issue, retention of talent and so on. And yet the Black Ferns enter the professional age, as the best there is. But here's a really interesting thing, surely this is as good a case for pay equity as you will ever see.
While outside of sport we had last week's government report on pay equity and how it must be made easier to make a claim, the classic weakness of that report is its inability to deal with the real world.
Professions of predominantly female workers compared somehow to a profession of predominantly male workers. Apples and oranges and from that you're supposed to cut a deal. It's fraught, it's artificial, and although most of us agree with the concept that women deserve as good a deal as blokes, it simply isn't as simple as dreaming up half-baked concocted comparisons that literally aren't real or logical, and yet that seems to be what they're happy to run with.
So surely, what a spectacular irony, that we have men playing professional rugby and women playing professional rugby and yet no pay parity and to be blunt, nothing close to it. And why? Because of the logic of the cold hard reality that numbers and facts don't lie.
Men's rugby has a number around it. Broadcast rights, ticket sales, tournament appearance fees, marketing, branding, advertising and so on. The All Blacks, or professional male athletes if you include super rugby and local level contests, bring in a number. And on the expense side, is their pay. Women do the same, but the number isn't the same nor is it anywhere close. So their pay reflects that, and isn't that fair?
When you can make very deliberate and specific comparisons: apples and apples. Isn't it fair, women in this case get paid less, or they get paid what they're worth, based on what their sport is worth. Or do we argue Portia Woodman is worth the same as Beauden Barrett, tricky eh? Because if you argue that yes, they are worth the same, who pays the difference?