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  • Former All Blacks captain Graham Mourie becomes NZR Life Member
  • Catherine Savage & Stu Mather join NZR Board
  • Record income and record investment in the game

Catherine Savage and Stu Mather have been welcomed onto the New Zealand Rugby (NZR) Board during a 131st Annual General Meeting at Poneke Football Club in Wellington that celebrated record levels of revenue and investment in the continuing growth and success of women and girls’ rugby.

NZR announced income of $271m and incurred expenses of $277m, with extra costs in 2022 including getting rugby started under covid protocols, managing inflationary pressures and supporting the Women & Girls game including RWC 21 (played in 2022). The completion of the Silver Lake partnership in June meant the first tranche of capital was drawn down ($100m), allowing $37m to be paid to stakeholders and meaning NZR closed the year with strong cash reserves. Without the combination of stakeholder payments, Silver Lake transaction costs, and Covid-related expenses, NZR’s operating result would be near breakeven.

NZR Chair Dame Patsy Reddy said 2022 had been a challenging but historic year for rugby in Aotearoa, led by the Black Ferns Rugby World Cup success and the country’s support of women’s rugby.

“There is no doubt 2022 will be remembered for the way the Black Ferns captured the imagination of fans in Aotearoa and around the world during the Rugby World Cup. It was an event that reminded us of how our sport can bring people together and inspire a generation. It also provided a moment of celebration for New Zealanders as we emerged from the backdrop of Covid.

“We continued to see participation bounce back from Covid declines through 2020 and 2021, particularly for our women and girls, and we set up the commercial arm of our business to ensure we can take the opportunities ahead. It is an exciting time to welcome our new Board members.”

Dame Patsy welcomed Savage and Mather who would bring complementary skills and diversity to the Board, thanked outgoing Board member Bart Campbell for his service over the past four years, and also acknowledged the reappointment of Deputy Chair Bailey Mackey, who moved into the Nominated role vacated by outgoing Chair Stewart Mitchell.

Savage, the former Chair of New Zealand’s Super Fund, moved into the Independently Appointed Board position vacated by Campbell’s decision to step away. Mather, the current Chair of the Auckland Rugby Union, was elected to the Board after being nominated by the Auckland union, heading off Shaun Nixon for a place on the nine-person Board.

Dame Patsy said the NZR Board’s growing diversity should be celebrated.

“We are cognisant of the changing landscape of both society and sport and proud that our overall Board diversity is greater than 50 percent, including four female Directors. At a time when women and girls’ rugby is a priority area for our organisation, we believe our increasing gender diversity strengthens our ability to capitalise on the momentum created by the Rugby World Cup and the ongoing growth of our female participation numbers.”

Savage said:

“This is an exciting time to be joining the New Zealand Rugby Board with the new initiatives and great opportunities both here in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally to grow rugby. I have a long association with the sport and look forward to bringing my commercial and governance expertise to the role and contributing to the game.”

NZR 2022 Financial Result

Record revenue of $271m and the first tranche of funding from the Silver Lake transaction allowed NZR to pay $37m to its stakeholders and build more than $90m in cash reserves despite the ongoing COVID costs and inflationary pressure through 2022.

NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson said it was pleasing to emerge from a turbulent period globally with a strong balance sheet and healthy reserves.

“The challenges of recent years should not be underestimated but the NZR Board remained committed to investing in our game. The Silver Lake transaction allowed us to inject nearly $40m into our community clubs, Provincial Unions, Super Rugby clubs, our Players pool, Associate members and Māori Rugby, while also increasing our investment in women’s rugby

“The 2021 Rugby World Cup, played in 2022 was a priority area for NZR, alongside the establishment of Sky Super Rugby Aupiki, and we have seen a continuation of that strategy in recent weeks with $21m committed to the first year of our 10-year women and girls’ strategy.

“It was pleasing to see a return of uninterrupted rugby after so much disruption with fans in the stands and competitions able to be played in full and it has been encouraging to come through a three-year period with 40 percent growth in our commercial revenue and with the establishment of New Zealand Rugby Commercial over the past six months we are well placed to see new revenue streams opening up for rugby, and with fan engagement initiatives in the pipeline, the future looks bright.”

NZR Chief Financial Officer Jo Perez said NZR’s commercial revenue, largely through broadcast and global sponsorships, reached a record high of $271m in 2022, up 43 percent from $189m in 2021.

Operating expenses of $277m increased mainly due to more activity in 2022 coming out of a reduced schedule in 2021 due to Covid. $21m was spent on women and girls’ specifically, excluding the Rugby World Cup, with an increased investment in the Black Ferns and Sky Super Rugby Aupiki’s inaugural year.

Perez acknowledged the importance of prioritising investment, ensuring a prudent approach is taken.

“When you combine $37m of stakeholder payments injected into the game, with more than $10m of one-off costs associated with completing the equity partnership transaction and Covid related costs to keep the game going early in 2022, the operating result would be near breakeven for 2022. As a national sports organisation our role is to invest earnings back into the game, and to do that with good stewardship and a clear strategy. This includes ensuring a strong capital position to navigate future challenges.

“When we consider our cash reserves have grown from $65m in 2021 to $95m, the success of the Black Ferns and the growth of women’s rugby, as well as the record levels of support from our global partners, we feel we are in a strong position to move forward and take the opportunities ahead.

“We are fortunate to have like-minded and supportive partners, such as Altrad, INEOS, adidas and Sky who understand the wider value of sport, and who also appreciate the aspirational and inspirational pursuit of high-performance success on a global stage through our Teams in Black.”

On-field performance

The Black Ferns captured the imagination of fans around the world by winning a memorable Rugby World Cup 2021 (played in 2022), while the All Blacks won The Rugby Championship, retained the Bledisloe Cup and were undefeated on their Northern Tour.

The Black Ferns and All Blacks Sevens won bronze medals at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, and each went one better at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town with silver medals. The Māori All Blacks split their two-match series with Ireland, while the creation of the All Blacks XV added another pathway for New Zealand’s next tier of players to be exposed to international opposition.

These achievements capped a year that had started under Covid restrictions, but built momentum through an uninterrupted Bunnings Warehouse NPC, FPC and Heartland Championship before providing 2022 with an iconic Rugby World Cup final at a packed Eden Park.

“The Rugby World Cup was an unforgettable and proud moment for New Zealand and a reflection of the momentum women and girls’ rugby has and when we consider it came off the back of the inaugural Sky Super Rugby Aupiki tournament, I believe 2022 will be looked back on as a landmark moment for the professional women’s game” Robinson said. “

Robinson noted NZR were immensely proud of the work happening in player welfare.

“World leading player welfare initiatives are being led in New Zealand and the health and safety of our players continues to be a priority. The lowering of tackle height below the sternum and our app-based teenage concussion campaign in our community game were significant and impactful for our participants.”

Read more about NZR’s on-field results, finances and competitions in our 2022 Annual Report

Graham Mourie elected as NZR Life Member

Former All Blacks captain and loose forward Graham Mourie was elected as a Life Member, after being nominated by the Taranaki Rugby Union.

Raised on a dairy farm in Taranaki, Mourie represented the All Blacks 61 times from 1976 to 1982, leading the side 57 times during his 21 Tests and 40 games.

Mourie, a father of four, famously captained the All Blacks to a historic Grand Slam tour of Britain and Ireland in 1978 and took a principle stand against apartheid in making himself unavailable for the 1981 tour of South Africa. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for Services to Rugby in the 1981 Queen’s Birthday Honours. In 1996, he was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and in 2014 was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

Mourie joins Sir Bryan Williams (elected 2022), Richie Guy (elected 2001); Rob Fisher (2011); John Sturgeon (2012); Andy Leslie (2015); Sir Graham Henry (2016); Richard “Dick” Littlejohn (2018); and Mike Eagle (2020) as NZR’s current Life Members.

NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson said:

“Graham’s service and contribution to rugby has been immense both on and off the field. His inspiring leadership, skill and dedication as a player is respected and admired across the world, but he has never forgotten his Taranaki roots and has always been the first to come forward when his services have been called on whether as a coach, administrator or volunteer. He joins an exclusive group of Life Members and deservingly so.”

Read more about Mourie’s rugby career here

New Board Director bios

Catherine Savage

Catherine Savage has been involved in fund management and private equity for more than 30 years. After joining AMP Capital Investors in 1994, she became Managing Director 2000-2007, responsible for more than NZ$13 billion under management. Since 2007, she has led a range of private equity roles and is the Managing Director of Savage Group Limited. Previous governance roles include directorships with Infratil Limited, Kiwibank Limited, The Todd Family Office Limited; Pathfinder Asset Management Limited and Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Limited, The New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants, AMP Office Trust and AMP Property Trust. After joining the Board of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund in 2009 Catherine became the Deputy Chair in 2012 and Chair from 2016 to 2021, overseeing the crown entity’s global portfolio of investments which totalled more than NZ $57 billion. She has been Chair of the Board of Trustees of the National Provident Fund and Chair of the Samuel Marsden Collegiate School Management Board. She is committed to growing Board diversity and is co-Chair of New Zealand Chapter for Women Corporate Directors and also holds governance roles as an independent director of Beca Group Limited, a member of the Advisory Board of Delphos International and Trustee of The Stewart Family Trust. She is on the Board of the Public Pension Institute in the United States. Married with three children and passionate about rugby, Catherine is based in Wellington.

Stu Mather

Auckland Rugby Chair Stu Mather is a former first-class player and long-term rugby administrator who has a passion for rugby and its development at all levels.  His contribution starting during his playing days from 1984 through to 1999 playing over 200 Premier games. Stu made a number of Auckland sides including four years in the Auckland B squad, also playing for Waikato B and North Harbour Development. He played 3 first class games for New Zealand Universities as well as offshore seasons in the UK and America. Stu quickly transitioned his passion for the game from playing into coaching, managing and administration, being involved across multiple levels. Joining the Auckland University Rugby Football Club committee in 1985 at the age of 20, Senior Delegate (2004 – 2018), New Zealand Universities Rugby Council 2001-2014, and has coached all the senior grades in Auckland, including women’s and U85s. He was also a liaison officer for NPC, Super Rugby teams, U20s RWC, as well as the All Blacks for over 13 years. Stu has been the Chair of Auckland Rugby Union since 2018 and a Blues Super Rugby Club director since 2020 and brings a wealth of rugby experience both at an amateur and professional levels to the NZR Board.  Stu is a member of the Institute of Directors and the financial controller for a large aggregates and cleanfill tipping company based in Auckland. 

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