Black Fern Ruahei Demant highlighted what the changes meant.
The contract allows her to balance her life out of rugby, including visiting family back in the Bay of Plenty. She pointed out that many of the players in Auckland only lived there for work or study reasons and that before contracts, they had to juggle many things to be able to play
Demant studied for double degrees in law and the arts and had only been able to play due to her supportive employers and workmates in the Department of Justice.
She added that it wasn’t only the international game where advance has occurred but also in Sky Super Rugby Aupiki.
It was another part of the professional equation, and she hoped that the interest created would inspire more and more young players to look to the opportunities the game provided.
One advantage players in the Black Ferns’ Auckland hub now enjoy is preparing full-time and not juggling other jobs.
“We don’t have any responsibilities outside of this, so whatever changes happen [in the Covid world] there’s not much that we have to change within our day-to-day lives,” she said.
Getting to the stage they had reached with the World Cup just around the corner was satisfying, and, in Auckland, they enjoyed working with one of the legends of the women’s game, Anna Richards, who was the high-performance manager for the group.
“She’s a true pioneer of women’s rugby, she’s a legend, so for us coming through a couple of generations after her, we’re finally reaping the rewards from the hard work that players of her generation, and even players from Fiao’o Faamausili’s generation within the Black Ferns, have done.
“We’re so lucky. I wish it had come earlier for my friends who represented this team in the past. And earlier, for the girls who sacrificed so much – time away from their families, jobs, income.
“I hope that from their sacrifices, and the rewards that we are reaping now from these contracts, that we are able to put our best foot forward, train really hard and get the results that this team deserves.”
It was with that in mind that she looked to reap the positive benefits that came out of last year’s disappointing end-of-season tour to England and France.
The Black Ferns had not achieved the results they wanted, she said. But what the public hadn’t seen was how tight the team was off the field.
“Despite the results, and despite the hard lessons we learned, each and every game our team had each other’s backs and probably the best thing that came out of our tour was how close, and how much more of a team, we became. The trust that we developed between each other,” she said.
Moving into this Rugby World Cup year, she was happy they got those lessons last year, and they were not going to happen this year.
“We’ve got heaps of work to do. We know that. We’re working hard, among our hubs across the country, for when we come together as a team.
“Because it’s not only our mana that is on the line, it is the legacy of this team. A legacy of winning, a legacy of championships,” she said.