Women in rugby ‘should be norm’
In a perfect world, Izzy Ford reckons her new role would not be newsworthy.
The first woman in 20 years to take a seat on the Wellington Rugby board said it was a shame her appointment was of any interest at all. ‘‘The fact it even makes news shows women still have a long way to go. This should be the norm.’’
Ford – who is also deputy mayor of Porirua – said she had fielded dozens of questions about what qualities she would bring to the job, and most left her shaking her head in disbelief.
‘‘I’ve been asked if I’m bringing a ‘woman’s perspective’ to the board but that’s ridiculous. I’m bringing a person’s perspective.’’
Both boardroom table and sports field are familiar environments for Ford, who played for the New Zealand women’s rugby team the Black Ferns for six years. Her appointment follows last year’s furore over the Wellington Rugby Union’s handling of Losi Filipo.
Filipo, who was contracted to the union as a schoolboy, was initially discharged without con- viction after assaulting four people, including two women, in central Wellington last year.
After a public outcry, police appealed against the sentence. He was convicted, ordered to do nine months’ supervision, and pay $1000 reparation.
A review of the case by Dame Margaret Bazley recommended the union hire more women, change its culture, and create a code of conduct for off-field behaviour. It found the handling of the case was based on a ‘‘maledominated view of managing offfield misconduct that was out of touch with much of society’’.
Ford said there was a culture problem within New Zealand sporting groups, but it reflected a national issue. ‘‘We need to be looking at society, and how we’re mentoring these kids all the way through.’’
The development programmes and support offered to players were high on her list of things to change, she said.
‘‘The development is all one size fits all. It’s not Maori-specific or Pacific-specific – you can’t chuck them all together without support.
‘‘These kids coming through the ranks are so talented and their skill level is equivalent to grown men, but they’re not mentally ready.’’
Wellington Rugby Football Union chairman Iain Potter said the appointment of Ford was not ‘‘just ticking a woman or Poly- nesian box’’, though she brought those qualities to the job.
Bazley’s review had been an eye-opener for the board, he said.
Porirua Deputy Mayor Izzy Ford is the first woman appointed to the board of Wellington Rugby for 20 years.