Woman leading Otago rugby

Rowena Davenport
Rowena Davenport
Rowena is in charge - and has broken new ground.

In a first for New Zealand rugby, a woman will hold the top job at a major provincial union.

Rowena Davenport has been appointed chairwoman of the Otago Rugby Football Union, becoming the first female to lead a Mitre 10 Cup union.

She had a background in rugby, having played the game when younger, been a supporter of the blue-and-golds all of her life, and first joined the Otago board in 2014.

In a prepared statement released yesterday, Mrs Davenport (nee McKewen) said her five years on the board had helped her understand what was required from a governance perspective to support management to administer rugby throughout Otago.

''It has been great to see the progress made towards sustaining and creating rugby opportunities for all in the province in that time, and the strong leadership and efforts of all who have contributed to this, including fellow board members, management and staff, should be acknowledged,'' she said.

''The board continues to be aware of the balance needed between high performance and community rugby and supports the growth of services available to stakeholders throughout the province for the development of the community game, as this is the pathway for participation and high performance.''

Mrs Davenport is the treasury manager of MTF Finance in Dunedin and is married with two teenage children.

Originally from Waikouaiti, she said the union had a strong focus on grassroots rugby.

''We are also focused on growing commercial revenue and exploring other funding options to support the programmes we deliver,'' Mrs Davenport said.

''Uncertainty and challenges in the evolving rugby landscape, including the implications of offshore competitions such as Global Rapid Rugby and Major League Rugby, is also something the board is well aware of and is seeking to better understand through the wider rugby community.''

She replaced Keith Cooper, who has stood down after seven years on the board.

A deputy chairman will be named at the next board meeting.

Jane Duncan was appointed chairwoman of the Buller union, the second smallest union for player numbers in the country - in 2017.

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