Is this thing on?
Giving this direct newsletter a go cause you haven't heard enough from me yet!
When I was a kid, sometimes I’d start my sentences halfway through.
It was confusing for those around me as well as myself because I wouldn’t realise why I was being misunderstood. My mind was just fast forwarding to the interesting bit and so I’d forget to provide the all important context.
It feels a bit like my experience with writing has gone that way too. Jumping to seeing my opinions published, without providing context of where these ideas come from. Who am I to speak on these issues? And more importantly, whose am I?
I am conscious that no one person can represent a whole community. So I have struggled with becoming a spokesperson for our game. My experiences of rugby have been shaped by the time, place and decisions that I have come into contact with. They have been shaped by who I am - a middle class, pākeha who was born and raised in central Wellington. However, over time, I have come to realise that rugby and more importantly, rugby’s people, have shaped how I now carry myself through the world. I genuinely couldn’t tell you who I would be without it.
So I love this bloody game, the wāhine that play it and everyone that supports us.
This year, marks my 20th season playing women’s rugby and I’ve seen a lot change in that time. Some can now win the lottery and get paid to play. Sevens is an Olympic and Commonwealth sport for women. We have had our first attempt at a Super Rugby competition. There are more current and former players now included in match day coverage. And a wave of participation is sweeping the motu, with ⅕ players now wāhine.
For the most part however, we are still very much in the minority, particularly when it comes to positions of influence. We are the only major sport in Aotearoa to have missed the Government’s gender target for the boardroom. There are 19 elite coaching positions across FPC, Super Rugby and the Black Ferns and only 2 of those head coaching roles are held by women.
I love rugby but rugby doesn’t always love me back. It’s been that way since before I ever said anything publicly. Sometimes, just existing in the space was enough to make people uncomfortable. There are different stakes it seems for what is defined as our national game. It’s New Zealand’s game but it isn’t a game for all New Zealanders. Not yet.
Change is coming, we have some growing up to do. Rugby will enter puberty and live all the awkward firsts that come with that time. We will feel the ache of the growing pains as we quickly outgrow what once fit. We will suffer the pressure of our peers and will need to hold on to who we truly are while opening ourselves up to the possibilities of who we can become.
It’s exciting. I have no idea where we will go. But I know these next few years will be critical in our games development. So I want to spend this time platforming our talent, shining a spotlight on all those wāhine in all the different facets of the game. Nothing about us, without us, I want to make our voices heard.
So I’ll keep doing the punchy stuff in the mainstream but I’ll give you the nuance here. I’ll give you the longer form interviews that were slashed to soundbites. I'll give you the stories of the grassroots, where away from politics, the best of us grow tall. I’ll give you an introduction to the characters I meet along the way. I’ll give you the heart of the thing and wear mine on my sleeve so you know exactly who I am.
It’ll be a big old passionate mess but it should be entertaining. Cause ultimately, that’s me.