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‘The face of rugby’: Why Ruby Tui’s new contract is such a big deal

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Hannah Peters - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Black Ferns winger Ruby Tui stole the show during last year’s momentous Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, but her future in the sport remained a mystery.

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Well, until earlier this week.

Tui didn’t play in Super Rugby Aupiki, or return to the Sevens World Series alongside World Cup winning teammates Stacey Waaka, Sarah Hirini, Portia Woodman-Wickliffe and Theresa Fitzpatrick.

Instead, the Olympic gold medallist joined the Sky Sport commentary team for Super Rugby Aupiki, and she also sat behind the mic on the World Series – at events including an historic Hong Kong tournament.

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But the “face of rugby in New Zealand” ended any speculation by signing a two-year contract extension with New Zealand Rugby a couple of days ago.

As seen on her social media channels, Tui put pen to paper – well, signed an electric contract on her phone – committed to a new deal which included an immediate sabbatical.

Tui, who was named one of World Rugby’s Breakout Players of the Year in 2022, knocked back a “mighty fine” NRLW offer to stay in rugby union.

Reflecting on the significance of the deal, New Zealand rugby scribe Jamie Wall described Tui as “the most recognisable rugby player going around.”

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“I’d say she’s probably the face of rugby in New Zealand rugby right now,” Wall said on SENZ Mornings.

“I would say she’s the most recognisable rugby player going around because of the way that she’s managed to leverage her fame.

“She’s a very smart operator and a smart cookie and someone with very natural charisma that deserves that sort of spotlight that she’s getting.”

In another post on her Instagram, Tui said “it certainly wasn’t easy” to re-sign with New Zealand Rugby.

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The World Cup winner questioned whether she would even return to the sport.

But after taking the time to weigh up her options, Tui added that she was “really proud” to have commit her future to the Black Ferns.

Echoing Jamie Wall’s comments, Newshub journalist James Regan agreed that Tui might be “the fact of rugby in this country at the moment.”

“When you’re looking to grow the women’s game and continue to keep hold of someone of that momentum that the Black Ferns gathered last year, and Ruby Tui was obviously an immense part of that,” Regan said.

“For girls and women playing rugby to have someone like Ruby to look up to is massive for New Zealand Rugby.

“(She is) obviously an asset to the Black Ferns as well. I’m not sure how many years she’s got but she’s been a pro for such a long time now and she’s done it all in the game.

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“To have her for the next couple of years and to be able to market her and get her involved in the communities and particularly for young girls as well is huge.

“(She is) definitely one of, if not the face of rugby in this country at the moment which is awesome.

“At a time when we really want to grow the women’s game and we want to get Super Rugby Aupiki kicking on and we want to have all of these things, you need someone whos’ kind of leading the charge and who’s the face of it all.

“Rugby Tui… there’s no one better than her to do that.”

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