Women in rugby ‘should be norm’

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - VIR­GINIA FAL­LON

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.

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