New Zealand Rugby has announced a new milestone agreement which could change the face of the women's game in this country.
Working in tandem with the Players Association, NZR has institued a "Memorandum of Understanding" which will allow a minimum of 30 players to be employed on a full-time basis.
There will be a guaranteed retainer and a host of other benefits written into the deals, including medical and life insurance.
It includes a Parental Policy for players returning from maternity leave, allowing them to nominate a support person to travel with them and provide child care while the squad is in training camp. It also provides a passage into alternative employment within the rugby realm until a player takes her maternity leave.
CEO Steve Tew said he was proud of the announcement which signalled a new era in both women’s sport in New Zealand, and in rugby.
“Women’s participation in sport is growing globally, and they represent the fastest growing group in New Zealand rugby numbers. One in seven rugby players in New Zealand is female," Tew said via statement.
“The Black Ferns – and the Black Ferns Sevens – have rapidly grown in profile, statue, and relevance on the international stage. This agreement supports them to be the best they can be when wearing the black jersey.
“Rugby fans can’t get enough of the Black Ferns’ exhilarating and entertaining rugby. And, if we want to support players to continue to give their all, we need to ensure we’re providing the best environment in order for them to perform at their best.
"Today’s announcement highlights our commitment to all rugby and to the black jersey."
In addition to the 30 contracted players there will be a wider training squad which will cater for a further 20 women who will train out of Regional Performance Hubs throughout the country.
The women's game has grown exponentially across the globe over the past few year, both in popularity and player numbers. There's been a 150 per cent increase in registered female players worldwide since 2013, with women now accounting for over a quarter of the total pool of players.