All the action as the Black Ferns took on the Wallaroos in Sydney.

A year must seem like a long time for the Black Ferns and Wallaroos who will meet each other in Sydney tonight in vastly different circumstances to the last time they played.

For different read better, but for better don't read perfect. Women's rugby is in the midst of a welcome revolution. The wheels are turning, not as fast as everyone would like, but turning nevertheless and creating a landscape that looks significantly more high performance than it did when the Black Ferns last played the Wallaroos in June 2017.

That last fixture was played in front of barely a soul at Rugby Park in Christchurch. It was two amateur teams, their respective players mostly having taken annual leave to be there, getting a game in ahead of the impending World Cup.


The biggest, or at least the most obvious difference tonight, will be the scale of the audience and surroundings.

From barely being noticed in Christchurch, the Black Ferns will be centre stage in Sydney, likely playing in front of a crowd at ANZ Stadium that may be around a few thousand when the game kicks off, but one that will grow to something close to 35,000 to 45,000 by the time it finishes.

The TV audience will probably be among the biggest New Zealand has posted for a Black Ferns fixture with public interest having rocketed after their successful World Cup campaign last year and the friendly time slot - as the curtain raiser to the first Bledisloe Cup test - boosting numbers.

But it won't just be the backdrop that will be different. The real change for both teams has come in the circumstances of the respective athletes.

The Black Ferns were awarded a landscape-changing collective deal earlier this year which saw retainer contracts introduced.

No one has become rich or been able to ditch their full-time employment as the value reflects the part-time expectations.

But the money has had an impact as it has allowed players to make lifestyle adjustments that have made it easier to train more. The money has also made it easier for players to train at more conducive times and in more effective ways.

And it is not just money that has been offered. There have been benefits in kind with several fringe benefits and maybe the biggest change of all is that players have been able to train together - gathered around regional hubs, with professional supervision.


There's confidence within the team that they are fitter, faster and stronger, which they will need to be as a similar transition has taken place across the Tasman.

This year saw New South Wales play Queensland in the epic final of the inaugural women's Super Rugby competition and the bulk of the Wallaroos come into this first test with plenty of quality rugby behind them.

As much as the Black Ferns have improved athletically in the last year, the Wallaroos may have outdone them.

And so there is an element of the unknown hanging over the test.