Black Ferns Assistant Coaches confirmed

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New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has announced an experienced coaching trio of Tony Christie, Steve Jackson and Mike Delany will join Black Ferns Director of Rugby Allan Bunting.

Christie will have a focus on defence and counter attack, with Jackson turning his attention to set piece and restart, while Delany, a former All Blacks first-five, will lead the Black Ferns attack.

Christie coached Matatū to the Sky Super Rugby Aupiki title this year; Jackson, is a former Manu Samoa and North Harbour Head Coach, while Delany has enjoyed five successful seasons coaching Bay of Plenty in the Bunnings Warehouse NPC.

Bunting said he was looking forward to work alongside a quality group of coaches.

“We are fortunate to have such an abundance of quality coaches putting their hands up to coach the Black Ferns, which is hugely exciting for our women’s game. The trio of coaches we have had the privilege of appointing are all committed to enhancing the Black Ferns legacy. Each will assist in allowing our players to play a brand of rugby unique to the Black Ferns, through their passion, innovation, and abundance of knowledge.”

Christie said it was an honour to join the Black Ferns coaching group.

“I am really excited for the opportunity to further add to the Black Ferns legacy. It’s been a dream to coach at this level since I started out in grassroots rugby. There is massive potential within the Black Ferns, and I believe this team has the ability to play a style like no other.”

Jackson was equally as excited in having been given the opportunity to contribute to the Black Ferns environment.

“I’m looking forward to working alongside Allan, he is an outstanding coach. The Black Ferns are a team that enjoy what they do, while their team culture and environment are really authentic. It has been a driver for me to coach a national side, so it means a lot. I am looking for forward to bringing plenty of energy and a few different ideas to the table.”

Delany described his appointment as a privilege.

“It is always a privilege to be part of a team with a fern and I am excited  to be a part of a talented group of coaches. I am hugely grateful to Bay of Plenty Rugby, and Allan, for the opportunity to be a part of the next chapter for the Black Ferns. While this is something new for me, I know I will be able to assist the professional growth of this team both on and off the field.”

Bunting also acknowledged the work of departing assistant coaches Wesley (Wes) Clarke and Whitney Hansen.

“Wes and Whitney have been great contributors to the Black Ferns success. Wes has been a huge part of the Black Ferns programme, his dedication to this team has been outstanding. I know he will be a huge asset to the New Zealand Under 20’s squad as they embark on their Under 20 World Rugby Championship this year and I look forward to seeing his continued success.

“Congratulations also to Whitney on her recent appointment as Matatū Head of Rugby. It is a fantastic opportunity and I know she will relish the challenge and is excited for the prospect to continue her growth as a programme leader.”

New Zealand Rugby Head of Women’s High-Performance Hannah Porter said it had been great to see the quality of applicants for the new Black Ferns coaching roles.

“We have undertaken a thorough process to finalise our assistant coaching trio. Across the process we have been privileged to have received applications from a qualified group of individuals who are aspiring to be a part of the Black Ferns programme. We are exceptionally pleased with the calibre of the coaches selected to support Allan and look forward to seeing what they will achieve as a group.”

New Zealand Rugby General Manager Professional Rugby & Performance Chris Lendrum said NZR were focused on the development of leading female coaches to ensure their future success.

“Individual growth of our coaches continues to be a focus for New Zealand Rugby. We are supporting the opportunity for Whitney to develop as a programme leader, with her recent appointment as the Matatū Head of Rugby. Our ambition is to continue to support the growth and development of our leading female coaches and provide them with the opportunities to gain further experience and be in a position to be competing for roles for our teams in black in the future.”

Former Black Ferns Sevens Team Manager Jenelle Strickland will also play a pivotal role with the Black Ferns after being appointed as Team Manager.

Strickland holds an abundance of experience, having managed the Tasman Mako in the Bunnings Warehouse NPC for four years before her appointment with the Black Ferns Sevens, which she held for a further four years, including working alongside Bunting.

Strickland would take up a critical leadership role in the team, Porter said.

“Jenelle has been a fantastic contributor to our game over the years, she has a wealth of knowledge and is an exceptional operator. She will play a critical role within the leadership of the Black Ferns, and we look forward to seeing what she will achieve.”

The Black Ferns will assemble early next week for their first Black Ferns camp following last year’s Rugby World Cup success.

Assistant Coach bios

Tony Christie:

Christie joins the Black Ferns following his success achieved with Matatū and Canterbury National Provincial teams. Christie being part of the transformation that seen Matatū go from being challenged in pre-season to winning Sky Super Rugby Aupiki. In 2022 he was named as assistant coach for the New Zealand Under 18 Barbarian’s squad. His creative and innovative style that brings the best out of players will enhance the mix of coaches we have and see him take the lead on the Black Ferns defence and counterattack portfolio.

Steve Jackson:

Jackson has been an accomplished coach for generations. Notable success with Counties Manukau as Assistant Coach and Head Coach of North Harbour, successfully winning the National Provincial championship and gaining qualification. In 2017 Jackson was named as the Blues forward coach before being appointed as Samoa’s head coach the following year. Jackson holds an abundance of knowledge and overseas experience which will be instrumental for the continued growth of the forward pack.

Mike Delany:

Delany was an instrumental first-five eighth. The former All Black, Chief/Crusader/Highlander and notable Bay of Plenty Steamer turned to coaching following a renowned career. A youthful Head Coach for Bay of Plenty Delany has been credited for his ability to instil an environment to allow players to express themselves. His attacking knowledge, kicking skillset and overseas experience alongside his connection to the professional game will be an asset for the Black Ferns and his role in leading the team’s attack.

Team Manager Bio

Jenelle Strickland:

Strickland will bring an abundance of experience, having managed the Tasman Mako for four years before her appointment with the Black Ferns Sevens, which she held for a further four years. Within her roles she has been instrumental in the delivery of logistics and operational aspects of the team. In addition, she played an important role in the leadership and direction of team culture and wellbeing. Strickland has also been a key leader in the education and growth of team managers in her former role as Education & Wellbeing – Education Advisor at New Zealand Rugby.


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