For Wayne Smith, working with the Black Ferns completes a circle of rugby life.
He says coaching the 2022 New Zealand women's team has been "like a landslide where you're shooting down, and then stumble across gold nuggets, and you're loving it. It's one of the best things I've ever done".
His role was hugely unexpected. His wife Trish and he were "effectively retired at Waihi Beach; going for walks on the beach, having a coffee".
It all changed on January 14, a date he says is "etched into my brain". As they often did, Smith and New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson were meeting for breakfast at the Ti Tree Cafe in Waihi. Robinson was heading back to Wellington after a break at his bach in nearby Whangamatā.
Smith mentioned he'd be happy to offer technical advice to Glenn Moore and his Black Ferns coaching group if they'd like it. He was eventually invited to a camp in April.
Then Moore, after a critical NZR review, resigned.
"Next thing, I'm standing in the middle of a group of women showing them how I could dance," says Smith. "It wasn't planned. The coaches were mates, and I just wanted to help."
On the field, the Ferns have thrived since Smith, Wesley Clarke, Whitney Hansen, Allan Bunting, and Sir Graham Henry have been on board. Australia, Canada, and the United States have been dispatched.
Smith says: "We're trying to play a faster game that's exciting not just to the girls, but to New Zealand, and I think they're enjoying it."
Off the field the players have made a huge impression on Smith.
"We were at Te Puke Intermediate School, and we broke up into groups to talk with the kids about their values, and what ours were. I had three women in my group. Tanya Kalounivale is studying engineering. Ruahei Demant, our captain, is a lawyer, and Leilani Perese is a school teacher at James Cook High School. Imagine being in that group talking about excellence, about respect. It was just fantastic.
"I don't think a lot of the players have had easy lives. They certainly haven't been privileged. But they've almost all got great, really supportive families, who have helped and shaped them.
"They're a group of very intelligent young women who have worked hard for everything. They have a real social conscience."
Before the test against Canada in Auckland, wing Renee Wickliffe rang agencies that help homeless people to see if the players could assist in any way. She found there wasn't enough time to cut through the required red tape.
Nothing daunted, she started ringing agencies in Northland where the team was heading next. Early in the United States test week in Whangārei, Wickliffe asked for volunteers to join her on the team's day off at Tikipunga School, that runs a programme called 'I Have A Dream'.
"We took two packed minivans to the school," says Smith. "That's their attitude. They want to give to others, and it's very impressive. It's not for show. There's no media involved. Nobody's pushing them. It just comes from good hearts."
It's entirely appropriate that the next game for the team is against Australia on August 20 in Christchurch, the first of two in the Laurie O'Reilly Cup series.
The connection between Smith and women's rugby was forged by O'Reilly, a dynamic Christchurch lawyer who coached the first New Zealand women's team in 1989, and took them to the 1991 World Cup in Wales.
Smith and O'Reilly met in the early 1980s, when O'Reilly, then coaching the University club's senior men's team, invited Smith to his home to talk rugby.
"He opened the door and he was standing there in a dress. I come from Putāruru. I wasn't sure what was going on. I didn't realise it was actually a kaftan.
"We had this amazing talk. He was running coaching courses basically off his own bat. Laurie and I became great mates. He was my coaching mentor until he passed away [in 1998].
"He was a fantastic ally, who taught me a huge amount about the game. And he was a champion of women's rugby."