Toka Natua and Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate and 26 other top players were contracted by New Zealand Rugby (NZR) earlier this week.
Cook Islands Rugby Union development manager Ben Koteka said the inclusion of Cook Islanders in the 28-member contracted squad would serve as a boost in development of women’s rugby on the island.
World Cup winning Black Ferns Natua and Ngata-Aerengamate were in Rarotonga earlier this month, running clinics as ambassadors of the Sports for Health Rugby programme, funded by the New Zealand government.
“It’s a milestone achievement for New Zealand Rugby and I think it’s about time they got their female 15s players contracted as well,” Koteka said.
“We congratulate Toka and Te Kura on being part of the 28 top players who got the first ever contracts. This will serve as an inspiration to the upcoming female players in the Cook Islands to see rugby as a career path.
“It is a major boost for development of women’s rugby in the Cook Islands and the region.”
The 28 contracted players include 17 Black Ferns from the 2017 World Cup winning side.
Among them is legendary hooker and 2017 World Cup winning captain Fiao’o Faamausili who has put her retirement from international rugby on hold.
Black Ferns head coach Glenn Moore said among this squad were a number of very talented young players who have been working hard in their clubs and provincial unions.
“Our talent identification programme has helped us develop depth in our wider player pool and the Black Ferns performance at the World Cup has given players something to aspire to,” Moore said in a NZR statement.
Moore said the 28 players announced today weren’t necessarily guaranteed a spot in the 2018 Black Ferns team and they would need to continue to work hard in their club teams and provinces to be considered for the black jersey.
NZR head of women’s rugby Cate Sexton said the signing of contracts, under the newly introduced Black Ferns Performance Programme, marked a significant moment in rugby and reflected the growing interest in women’s rugby in New Zealand as well as globally.
“We have a very talented pool of female players to select from and the pool is increasing every year. We want to make sure we nurture our talent and provide our best players with the training and support they need to achieve at the highest level,” Sexton said.
“These contracted players will receive a guaranteed retainer to train, assembly fees when they come together for Black Ferns camps and the medical and technical services they need as elite athletes.
“It’s an exciting time for women’s rugby and I’m very proud we’ve taken the step forward to contract our female 15s players along with our sevens squad.”
About the contracts
- Guaranteed retainer for one year (NB the Memorandum of Understanding with NZRPA is due for renegotiation in 2019)
- Assembly fees if selected for Black Ferns training camps and fixtures (approximately 50 days/year in total)
- Medical and life insurance, an opportunity to join the Player Savings Scheme and KiwiSaver
- Technical, tactical, biomechanical, strength and conditioning programming, nutritional advice, medical and sports psychological support
- 10-14 hours per week commitment required for rugby training however, priority will be given to ensuring players can maintain their work and study while on the programme
- Personal development to assist in areas of career/education and work, finance and asset protection, character development, mental wellness and other professional rugby obligations and expectations
- A personal development manager will be allocated specifically to support the Black Ferns
- Parental policy for players returning to the programme from maternity leave
- Remuneration for players paid out of the Player Payment Pool agreed between NZR and the NZRPA under the existing Collective Employment Agreement (CEA)