Women’s rugby leading growth of game in New Zealand

Dave Lintott     05 Nov 2017     Dave Lintott

In 2017, almost one in six registered players were female, with more than 24,000 girls and women lacing up their boots, an increase of 11 percent on 2016.

The largest growth area in females rugby was among Small Blacks (5-12 year old girls), up nine percent to 16,000. New Zealand Rugby Head of Women’s Rugby Development, Cate Sexton, said it was exciting to see female rugby lead the growth of the sport in New Zealand. 


“2017 has been another year of celebration and progress for women’s rugby, with an increase in teams competing in the Farah Palmer Cup, the Black Ferns winning their fifth Women’s Rugby World Cup and the Black Ferns Sevens securing the Women’s Sevens World Series, dropping only one game all year.

“Both the Black Ferns and the Black Ferns Sevens are wonderful role models to young women and their successes are inspiring a generation to play the game of rugby.

“We know that the most important thing we can do to encourage girls and women to play is to provide them with playing pathways, great coaches and referees.

“Both New Zealand Rugby and the Provincial Unions are increasing resources to meet the growing demand and it’s pleasing to see that we’re also retaining more female players in the game.”

New Zealand Rugby Head of Community Rugby, Brent Anderson, said rugby remained a strong part of New Zealand communities. “Rugby is our national sport and we’re proud to deliver a game that is played across the country and loved by New Zealanders of all ages, genders and ethnicities. “As the fabric of our country changes we are developing new and alternative formats of rugby which appeal to a wider group of New Zealanders.” 

Anderson added that, whilst the game remains in an excellent shape, there is always more work to be done to improve. “It’s great to see non-contact forms like Rippa Rugby and Quick Rip continue to grow in popularity. We also need to continue to work hard to keep rugby relevant and appealing to teenagers.

“Volunteering remains a fantastic way to stay involved in the heart of the game and every week a team of volunteer coaches and referees ensure over 5000 rugby matches are enjoyed by thousands of New Zealanders across the country,” he said. 
Rugby by the numbers 

• 156,067 registered players, an increase from 155,934 in 2016. 
• 86,237 Small Blacks (5-12 years), an increase from 85,341 in 2016. 
• 41 381 Teenagers (13-20 years), a decrease from 42,275 in 2016. 
• 28,449 players aged 21 and over, an increase from 28,318 in 2016. 
• 24,295 registered females, an increase from 21,937 in 2016. 
• 12,366 registered coaches, a decrease from 12,816 in 2016. 
• 1,750 registered referees, a decrease from 1,858 in 2016.

Note to Editors: A registered rugby player is someone who has officially registered to play organised rugby and participated in a minimum of four matches.