Parity a forlorn hope

Ever since 29-year-old Billy Jean King beat 55-year-old Bobby Riggs at tennis at the Houston Astrodome in 1973 women have argued they should get pay equity in professional sport.

With NZ Rugby and the Players Association announcing at the end of 2016 a new collective agreement had increased the All Blacks payment pool from $121 million to $191m over the next three years, it’s a shame a fairer proportion wasn’t put aside for the Black Ferns women who this month won their fifth world crown.

Whereas All Black captain Kieran Read gets $1 million annually before endorsements and packages are added, Black Ferns skipper Fiao’o Fa’amausili and her team got peanuts in comparison.

One need only look atthe feats of recent Halberg Award winners Lydia Ko, Val Adams and Lisa Carrington to appreciate New Zealand women set high standards in sport beyond the reach of many males.

In rugby Portia Woodman’s status as a superstar rates right up there with Beauden Barrett and Rieko Ioane, as does that of 36-year-old Kiwi Fern Honey Hireme who scored 12 tries in the recent Rugby League World Cup.

But while our best union and league women players deserve much better than they have received, they need to prove they can attract the same gate takings, television audience and sponsorship the men do to justify parity.

Unfortunately they fall well short of that as shown by the poor crowds they drew to the rugby test against England in New Zealand in June and the World Cup league curtain raiser in Brisbane before the stadium filled for the men’s final between Australia and England.

That is no reflection on the standards the women set but rather the apathy of the public. Interestingly, a lot more women attend men’s matches in both codes than they do women’s.

Until that changes, parity remains a forlorn hope for sportswomen who, nevertheless, deserve a fairer share of rugby’s spoils.

Meanwhile it was pleasing to see Ross Taylor equal Kane Williamson and the late Martin Crowe’s New Zealand record of 17 test centuries in the Hamilton match against the West Indies on Monday.

In doing so, he achieved a minimum goal mentor Crowe had set for him before urging him to strive to improve his record.

Having scored a frustrating 93 in the first test against the Windies on Wellington’s Basin Reserve, it was fitting a relaxed but focused Taylor made amends in his home town Hamilton.

His latest century has lifted his test batting average to a commendable 48.04 which exceeds Crowe’s 45.36 but trails Williamson’s superb 50.62.

At 33, he remains in fine form against a West Indies team that bowls better than it bats and he looks set to extend his 10-year international career for some time to come.

Meanwhile faith in the All Blacks Sevens has been restored by winning their first world series tournament in Cape Town after 15 losses to break a two-year drought.

Fijian Joe Ravouvou was the sensation of the 38-14 final win against Argentina in which he demonstrated his pace, sidestep and fend to telling effect after the team beat favourites South Africa in the semi-final.

It was also their first tournament win under Scot coach Clark Laidlaw who replaced the legendary Gordon Tietjens just over a year ago.

  • Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author