A sporting Saturday with consecutive games is a fan’s nirvana. In an interrupted sports year, it was good to see both the Black Ferns and Kiwi Ferns have a chance to get out on the field today, lining up quite nicely to flick from one match to the other.
With league fans in particular starved of international contests this year, the Kiwi Ferns v Fetῡ Samoa game was an opportunity to see the white V in action. The Kiwi Ferns are celebrating their 25 year anniversary, with this match and a documentary on Sky, We Are the Kiwi Ferns.
Personally, I chose to attend the Black Ferns Probables v Possibles match. Why? Because rugby isn’t one of my top sports, but with the Women’s Rugby World Cup being held here next year, I need to get cracking on familiarising myself with our players to make the most out of the event. I fully intend on attending games, and I want to be more than a casual observer. I saw proven names like Kendra Cocksedge and Selica Winiata show their skills, and how emerging talents like Renee Holmes fared against more experienced players.
There was also the added element of supporting women’s sport regardless of the code. It’s been a tough year for all sports, with COVID robbing us of most international competitions. It’s been great to see codes do what they can to get something up and running for females, after ensuring more lucrative male competitions were in place. And that’s not salty from me, that’s a clear understanding and recognition that for most sports, it’s the men’s game that brings in the money for stakeholders. And that money helps to run the women’s competitions, because we’re not yet at a stage of parity on that front.
The big question that today posed was this – are you a rugby fan, or just an All Blacks fan? Are you passionate about rugby league, or just your chosen male NRL side? How many people who watched Origin on Wednesday backed up and watched the Clash of the Pacific today?
At North Harbour Stadium today, there was a vocal crowd in to watch the women’s game, held before the Mitre 10 Cup Harbour v Counties match. There were plenty in before kick off, and the crowd numbers only grew, some Harbour regulars coming along early to see what the ladies had to offer. Other than the number of girls and boys lining up for photos and autographs after the game, what brought a cheeky smile to my face was the amount of people who left the ground after the women’s game was finished. Some may have seen it as the curtain raiser, but for many, it was the main course, and they weren’t staying for dessert.
It’s easy to say you support women’s sport, that the growth in exposure, participation and professionalism is fair and long-awaited. But do you walk the talk? Its one thing to like the tweets, but do you watch the game on TV, or better yet, purchase a ticket?
I feel you can no longer pass yourself off as a fan of a sport if you’re not interested in supporting the women’s version of the game. Do you love cricket, or just love the Black Caps? Did you watch the White Ferns in Australia recently? The growth in exposure of women’s sport over the last few years means you know where to find it. It’s on Sky. It’s a curtain raiser before the men’s game. It’s at the venue you frequent. You can find it if you take your blinkers off.
Daves in the comments may shout about how any women’s sport isn’t as quick or as skilful, eg it’s just not ‘real rugby’. Tell me, what is ‘real rugby’? We sit here in New Zealand and pontificate about how the Northern Hemisphere sides don’t play the game the right way. That penalties and drop goals can’t beat running, flashy rugby. But as we know, they can still win a World Cup.
Think of women’s sport the same way, it’s a different flavour of the same product. Women are built differently, so find different ways to execute the game. It could be a more cerebral approach. It could be skill and execution over sheer power. There are still hard hits. There are still great touchline conversions. There are still amazing passes and breakaways. It’s still rugby, just served differently.
So if you missed the Silver Ferns against England, as well as these football codes today, there’s more opportunities to get amongst women’s sport. The Black Ferns are playing in Waitakere next weekend, then head to Nelson. Auckland basketball fans can head along to the NBL’s 18in18, which starts on November 19. Cricket’s Hallyburton Johnstone Shield will be played over the summer, along with the women’s Super Smash.
Today was a condensed tasting platter of what’s coming up for us over the next few years – athletic women doing what they do best. With the women’s rugby, cricket and football world cups coming our way, now’s as good a time as any to start really supporting women’s sport, so you can enjoy the incredible talent that will be on our shores.
When the world is watching, hopefully New Zealand is too.
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