One of the few pieces of Black Ferns merch and the new Black Ferns NFTs
One of the few pieces of Black Ferns merch and the new Black Ferns NFTs

OPINIONSportsOctober 19, 2022

Does New Zealand Rugby know there’s a World Cup happening?

One of the few pieces of Black Ferns merch and the new Black Ferns NFTs
One of the few pieces of Black Ferns merch and the new Black Ferns NFTs

The Rugby World Cup could very well be a success on all fronts – despite New Zealand Rugby’s apparent disinterest, writes Mad Chapman.

Two weeks into the Rugby World Cup and the Black Ferns have all but secured a quarter final spot after their comprehensive win over Wales on Sunday. They’re not the tournament favourites (England’s Red Roses are the frontrunners) but the team is easy to support, with arguably the most media and fan-friendly players of any New Zealand rugby side. 

Despite a number of barriers to engagement (games only played in Auckland and Whangārei, television broadcasts delayed or on paid platform Spark Sport), interest in the tournament so far has been heartening. A great (but not sold out) crowd at the opening day, and a huge 340,000 watching the delayed free-to-air broadcast at home. World Rugby has facilitated marketing and merchandise and tournament sponsors like ASB have been highly visible. So why does it feel like there’s been little-to-no interest from New Zealand Rugby in meaningfully promoting the tournament and the Black Ferns?

Nielsen television ratings, featuring delayed rugby coverage at number eight.

The merch

I have a Black Ferns jersey so personally I’m doing fine. But that jersey was acquired by being extremely annoying and somehow brokering a personal favour from the prime minister. Thankfully it doesn’t take Jacinda Ardern to get your hands on a jersey any more, with official Rugby World Cup editions available at the official NZR shop (URL: which you can get to by visiting the official NZR website (URL: The jerseys are $150. 

If you can’t afford a jersey, NZR recently (like, since the tournament began) added a beanie ($30) and a rain poncho ($25). You can also buy a replica ball ($50), a picture book about Kendra Cocksedge ($15 and it’s unclear if this is Black Ferns merch), or my favourite, a Black Ferns merino shawl for the cool price of $399. 

Those are your options as local fans of the home team in the hosting country of the Rugby World Cup.

Black Ferns merch in the All Blacks shop

The Stat Attack cards 

Sanitarium is a NZ Rugby partner with “a long association with NZ Rugby” and “a proud legacy of the Weet-Bix and All Blacks brands being promoted together”. Shortly before the World Cup, Sanitarium released the latest round of Weet-Bix Stat Attack cards featuring New Zealand rugby players for kids to collect. The cards include most All Blacks (including some who were subsequently dropped from the squad after the cards were printed), the All Blacks coach, and a number of former legendary All Blacks including the late Jerry Collins. (An aside: as a relative of Collins’, it’s a bit jarring to see his face on a cereal box six years after his death.)

The Stat-Attack cards are still available throughout the World Cup but none of the cards feature Black Ferns. It’s assumed that young girls also eat Weet-Bix and also that young boys are interested in good rugby players who aren’t men. When asked for a reason as to why the Black Ferns weren’t featured, Sanitarium said it had “included the Black Ferns in Weet-Bix promotions in the past and are looking to again in the future”.

Neither New Zealand Rugby nor Sanitarium answered questions regarding the cards and whether including Black Ferns during the World Cup was discussed.

The All Blacks

Where are they? One would assume that someone who plays rugby for a living would be a rugby fan, but very little has been seen of current players supporting their women’s team. At the opening day, I spotted Dan Carter and thought that was nice. Then I realised Chemist Warehouse is a tournament sponsor and he was likely there in his role as a chemist ambassador.

Otherwise, I saw no cutaways to All Blacks watching from the stands or in a corporate box. Compare that to the WNBA where, with a few exceptions, NBA players are the most vocal fans of their women counterparts. So much so that players often end up chastising their own fans for disrespecting or dismissing women players in the comments sections of their supportive posts.

So far, the All Blacks account has posted one picture on Instagram as a show of support at the start of the tournament, with no current All Blacks (that I could see in my searching) sharing any public posts about either the tournament or the Black Ferns specifically. 

No, there’s no obligation for the All Blacks to publicly support the Black Ferns, but maybe there should be. The WNBA has grown thanks in no small part to the league-wide investment from the NBA. When paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to play sport, the contract comes with other duties like sponsorship appearances, media and community events. In the NBA, an expectation of public support for other leagues is also included, and readily adopted by the biggest stars (LeBron James leading from the front). Why not here?

The NFTs

Sometimes I think New Zealand Rugby couldn’t possibly do less to support its women players and then it buys 33 NFTs “in a show of support for the Black Ferns”.

Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. New Zealand Rugby’s commercial arm decided to invest in NFTs. In a statement on its site, NZR references Web3, MoonPay (a Web3 infrastructure company) and World of Women, an NFT digital art collection. 

In what appears to be a partnership with Web3 companies, NZRC has invested in 33 NFTs. And as “a show of support for the Black Ferns”, has purchased NFTs of women. Not the Black Ferns themselves, just random women. 

Nothing can be done with these NFTs, and, by the looks of the market, it’s unlikely any return will come from this investment. Perhaps that money could’ve been invested in some more accessible merch rather than putting the token in Non-Fungible Tokens.

Keep going!