'Cultural change' coming to NZ Rugby

Steve Tew (Photosport)
Steve Tew (Photosport)

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) is setting up an advisory panel to change the culture in rugby, after the organisation was hit by a series of lurid scandals.

"As outlined previously, New Zealand Rugby is setting up an independent review of respect and responsibility in our professional environment," it said in a statement.

"We have the draft terms of reference and are still working on appointing all members of the independent panel.

"The intention is for this review, once it has been established, to be thorough and transparent. We will provide the detail once it is finalised."

In the latest incident to tarnish rugby's image, Southland Stags player Dillan Halaholo was sentenced to 18 months' intensive supervision on Thursday.

Halaholo, 23, admitted three charges of committing an indecency in a public place, twice in front of young girls.

It follows the Chiefs stripper scandal in August and then the outcry over Wellington player Losi Filipo's discharge without conviction after assaulting four people, two of them women.

And just last week, All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith was banned for one match after revelations of a tryst with a woman in a disabled toilet at Christchurch Airport in September.

After this string of court cases and bad publicity, the announcement was welcomed by Labour MP Louisa Wall.

"I think it is a positive development," she said. "The fact that they've taken that opportunity to engage with a number of woman - from what I've read, apparently the majority of the cultural change panel will be woman - for me it's a really positive step forwards."

She criticised NZR for the time it's taken to begin the process.

"The reality is people have been calling for change for nearly 10 years, and we're still trying to address that issue today."

Ms Wall says the number of women on the board is a good sign.

"Having such a strong representation of women, from my perspective, is part of the change that has been necessary for a long time."

She sees it as the beginning of a long journey for NZR.

"I think it is the first step of many. But ultimately I think that one of the end goals is women being on the rugby board."