I’m blessed and honoured. I’m purposedriven, finding the potential in something and bringing it to life. I’m in the right place with what’s happening at the moment with women’s rugby.
I don’t really think too far ahead. When I finished with the Black Ferns Sevens, I wanted to step over to the 15s game. I didn’t know what that was or how that looked. I usually put my head into one role and don’t think too far ahead and then when I come out of that something comes up. That’s always been my philosophy. I learned a lot at Manawa. I was with the Chiefs men’s fulltime too, so I learned a lot off that experience too, working with Clayt (Clayton McMillan), Gats (Warren Gatland), Hilly (David Hill) and Rog (Roger Randle). Then obviously Smithy (Wayne Smith) gave me a call and asked if I could lend a hand. I thought that was an amazing opportunity for my own growth to be with him, Ted (Graham Henry) and Crono (Mike Cron). It was a learning curve for me.
Oh, it’s overseeing the whole programme and trying to build a pathway for the Black Ferns. I look at this way: we have our young ladies sitting at school and what do they see? They see the Black Ferns more often now. There’s Aupiki growing, there’s Farah Palmer Cup. It’s an exciting, realistic pathway for them. There have been special stories from around the country in that growth of women’s rugby. I think of Kaiapoi near Christchurch, where they expected 10 to turn up (for a women’s team muster) and about 36 turned up. These stories are happening through the country, so it’s important for these ladies to jump in and give rugby a go.
It’s definitely a step up; having our top players together in another competition is great. There is room for improvement in our competitions and we’d like to see that over the next couple of years.
Yes, having more time together as teams to prepare would be good too.
Yes. At the moment we are picking Black Ferns that are new to professionalism. It feels like we are building professionals at the Black Ferns level. It would be great to have a real foundation and base of professional and semi-pro players, so we are putting icing on the cake rather than building the cake.
Oh yeah, there’s 50, but maybe even more. We’re blessed with talent in this country. Everyone’s dad, uncle, grandfather used to play rugby. It’s in our blood. These ladies just need somewhere to play and support. I’m here to build depth in our people, not just our players but our support. That will drive the top.
I know Ruby well and talk to her often. She’s put a lot of energy into women’s rugby. At the moment, she just needs to go and fill her cup and fill her spirit and I know she will be back at some stage.
Yeah, we’ll have three camps through that period and we’ll be working through our hubs, making sure they have the right support. They’ll be involved with their clubs if that’s best for them, and then we’ll come together to play Aussie for that first Test and then off to Canada for a couple of Tests.
We’ll probably name our squad after the second camp (May). The last camp will be over in Aussie.
Cory has been busy and away so looking forward to catching up with him. Their priority in 2024 will be the Olympics, so if he sees an opportunity for some of the sevens ladies to come over and play 15s, then we are definitely open to that.
They did an amazing job. Lu did an amazing job on and off the field and Kennedy supported her really well. She had a tough year with injury but her resilience and perseverance showed through, and how she made it back on the field and contributed so well was outstanding. It’s highly likely that won’t change, but with our leadership group we’ll see.
That’s right. Everyone else is there.
That’s my strength and something that I will oversee, but we’ll have a new management group. We’ll have new ideas and connect with our leadership group to make sure we are all aligned.
It’s a little bit different with the 15s. You go into a changing room at halftime. My coaching philosophy is about bringing out the potential in people until one day you are not needed. Empowering these ladies and giving them responsibility to help them grow is important. You can support them and guide them around that, but building self-reliant athletes is where we want to end up.
Definitely not. The philosophy that Smithy brought in was something that we believed in with the sevens too. The biggest challenge around women’s rugby is vision: looking up and seeing opportunities. It’s about building skillsets to find that space as soon as possible. It’s not just in kicking areas, though we did get ourselves in the crap at times (in 2022). The profile of our players was to be attacking, so I don’t think we’ll have much luck in changing that because they loved it so much. We made it through and Smithy did an amazing job in taking the side from where they were after that northern tour (2021), but there is a lot of work still to be done around our skills, our kicking game, our physicality and controlling momentum better.
Set-piece is key in the forwards. You need to be able to get the ball. We want athletes to play a game of speed. We never put someone in a box.
Oh, a massive amount. Smithy knows human beings really well, built relationships and just drove the game relentlessly that we needed to get to. You could write a book on just that.
You’re always expected to win, and that comes with the role. But underneath that we do need to grow depth. We need to give younger players experience, but we definitely want to win every time we take the field.
They did go through a tough year in 2022 but it was like my first year with them in 2017. Several players went to the 15s Rugby World Cup. The younger ones then blossom and when the older ones see that, it lifts them too. That’s what’s happening now, so they are definitely in the right place and heading in the right direction.
Subscribe here to get future Rugby News issues delivered to your door.