Sporting passion transforms into employment for female rugby players

Southlander Amy Rule will play for the Matatu team in the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki competition.

Kai Schwarmer

Southlander Amy Rule will play for the Matatu team in the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki competition.

Twenty-nine female rugby players have left behind their day jobs to focus on their sport, and two excited Southlanders are part of New Zealand Rugby’s historic step. Logan Savory reports.

Amy Rule says she is living the dream. Her hobby has now transformed into her employment.

The Riverton product has been named in a group of 29 women’s rugby players who have been contracted to the Black Ferns 15-a-side program for 2022.

New Zealand Rugby previously had professional performance contracts in place for its women’s 15-a side players, but the new contracting model includes a guaranteed increase to their retainer along with assembly fees and a range of other benefits.

The base retainers start at $35,000, with benefits and appearance fees added. It’s understood top Black Ferns could earn around $130,000 under the new contract model.

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Amy Rule playing for the Black Ferns in a test against France in November.

Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Amy Rule playing for the Black Ferns in a test against France in November.

For Rule, who started playing rugby in her final year at Aparima School in Southland, it meant she was now a full-time professional athlete who can fully focus on being the best rugby player she can be.

“I never fully understood how much of a difference it would make. We’ve been in the program for about two months now, and it’s just insane how much we can step it with our training load and every day put 100 percent into something we love.”

“I’m living the dream. It’s just having the money and not having to stress about work, not having to stress about being on a budget with my food, so making sure I’m getting 100 percent the right nutrients I need.”

Rule is now based in Christchurch where she plays for Canterbury at provincial level and is part of Matatū, the combined Crusaders and Highlanders team which is preparing for the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki competition.

The tight-head prop was ecstatic to be able to now call rugby her job.

“I’m so grateful for the era of rugby I am in. [Women’s rugby] is fast-growing and there are cool opportunities now with Super Rugby.”

Southland's Amy du Plessis has gained a professional rugby contract for 2022 and will also play for Matatu in that inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki this year.

Kai Schwarmer

Southland’s Amy du Plessis has gained a professional rugby contract for 2022 and will also play for Matatu in that inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki this year.

Rule is joined by fellow Southlander Amy du Plessis in the list of 29 contracted players.

du Plessis started playing rugby while at Southland Girls’ High School before lining up for both Otago and Canterbury in the Farah Palmer Cup.

She will also play for the Matatū Super Rugby Aupiki team.

du Plessis was delighted to be part of a historical step for women’s rugby in regard to full-time professional sport.

“I tell myself a lot that I’m so lucky to live this life. It is awesome to wake up and know you are going to do something you love,” du Plessis said.

“I have always dreamed to be a Black Fern, but I didn’t think it would be a day job because it was the women’s game. We’ve got to thank the past players and their legacy to get us to where we are today.”

An average week for Rule and du Plessis during the preseason at the moment was full training days on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, as well as a half a day on Fridays.

Wednesday was set aside for recovery and personal development.

Rule said she has immersed herself in rugby given it was her hobby, main interest, and now her employment.

But she was aware the personal development opportunity created by New Zealand Rugby was important to try to help switch off as well as look to life outside of rugby.

“Until I find something, me and a team mate are doing pottery classes. It’s getting myself out of my comfort zone trying new things.”

Amy du Plessis playing for Canterbury in the Farah Palmer Cup.

Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Amy du Plessis playing for Canterbury in the Farah Palmer Cup.

Rule said she never had aspirations to be a professional sportsperson as a youngster living in Riverton. She was a chilled kid who just loved sport, she said.

“I was always a bigger kid and probably rough around the edges, I just wanted to get into it. I was definitely made for a contact sport.”

It was in 2017 when a friend dragged Rule along to a rugby training session that she found her sporting love and a sporting environment where she felt at home.

“When I first rocked up for a women’s game they just loved me for me. I had never experienced that from other sports.

“I think you’ve got to be a special breed of women to play rugby, it is an intense sport. But they are such good characters, big personalities, and welcome you with open arms.”

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