Women's sport taking centre stage in NZ

New Zealand's status as a leading light for women's sport will be reinforced if they and Australia win co-hosting rights for the next FIFA Women's World Cup.

New Zealand can rightfully claim to be at the centre of women's world sport if FIFA delegates vote their way this week and complete a hat-trick of World Cup bid celebrations.

Australia and New Zealand have the inside running to stage the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup after main rivals Japan pulled out of contention on Monday

The vote on Thursday night (AEDT) is expected to endorse the historic trans-Tasman bid and enable the Kiwis to begin preparations to host a third pinnacle women's tournament in the space of three years.

Already locked in are next year's women's World Cups in cricket (February) and rugby (September-October), meaning the small nation of five million will become the first to stage all three.

Having a mortgage on the four-yearly showpieces would be another feather in the cap of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is eager to host the FIFA event not just for the prestige, but for sound policy reasons.

The 39-year-old has set a goal of making New Zealand the best place on the planet to be a child.

But she presides over a notoriously overweight population: New Zealand is the third most obese nation in the world.

To remedy that, she wants an aspirational sporting pathway for all Kiwis.

"I think we have a story to tell," Ardern said on Monday.

"We have, as a government, been focused on girls and women's sport. We have been working alongside representative bodies to see greater equality in the sporting arena."

At the launch of the women's Cricket World Cup tournament schedule in March, Ardern told AAP that her own experiences growing up in small town Waikato was a motivation to raise the profile of women's sport.

She was a keen badminton and basketball player but, like many girls, felt societal pressures and dropped those sports once she left school.

"There were certain sports I just didn't feel comfortable in," she said.

"I also played touch rugby in a social team and really enjoyed it. But one of the things we have to overcome is that in order to play sports you have to be good. You don't.

"You have to have a passion for the game. You have to enjoy being out there and being a part of it and just making sure that it's not just about competitiveness, but about participation."

In 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to allow women to vote in a parliamentary election.

More than a century on, the glass ceiling is getting smashed again.

Two years ago, the Football Ferns national women's soccer team established a world-first when they were granted the same pay, image rights, prize money share and travel budget as the men's team.

There are 30 women's rugby players in the country on fulltime contacts and 17 cricketers, although those players are still all paid significantly less than their male counterparts.

While the All Blacks hold a revered place in the New Zealand public's pecking order, the world champion Silver Ferns netballers are household names.

Shot putter Valerie Adams and kayaker Lisa Carrington are among the country's most decorated all-time Olympians, whole women have often shaded the men in the more recent Kiwi medal counts at Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

The Black Ferns are five-time women's rugby champions, meaning next year's event should garner enormous local interest according to tournament director Michelle Hooper.

But that's not the only selling point.

"You get an incredible sense of warmth and embrace working in women's sport compared to men's sport, it's a lovely dynamic," she told AAP.

"It will have a family focus, with triple headers for the pool stage, great pricing and more of a festival type approach."


AAP