Raelene Castle: Five burning issues

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

There’ll be many challenges for incoming Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle, when she begins officially next month.

What did she have to say on some of the key areas of her job?

1. Working with the Wallabies

Michael Cheika was fuming over some refereeing calls. Photo: Getty ImagesOne of Castle’s key relationships in a new role will be that with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. Castle is no stranger to passionate coaches, having worked with former Bulldogs coach Des Hasler. Castle and Cheika met briefly after her appointment, but the CEO said she wouldn’t be afraid to ask questions of the national mentor if necessary.

“We had 45 minutes together so it was just a polite introduction at this stage,” she said.

“The head coach is the head coach that runs the program but the importance is the chief executive has to know what the right questions are to ask and I think my experience in high performance, not just in the last 10 years, but over a long period of time is a good thing because it helps you be able to ask those right questions.”

2. Taking the women’s game to the next level 

Australia's Women's Sevens are focused on Rio. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyCastle conceded rugby was in a ‘race’ to grow women’s sport, as the focus shifts more and more on elite opportunities for women. Rugby already has a full-time women’s team in the Sevens, and she said that was a good place to start.

“We have a fantastic Olympic pathway for our women's athletes in Sevens and that female market's really hot with the launch of lots of new female competitions, so we know we're in a race,” she said.

“(It’s about) equal opportunity, we've got a genuine pathway to an Olympic gold medal. It's attractive, there's a Sevens competition which allows female athletes to not only earn a living but also travel the world, that's exciting.

“It's great to see what’s happening for women in the sport in the landscape of Australia and rugby have led that for a long time, so we need to make sure we keep presenting those opportunities.”

3. Breaking rugby’s shackles of perception 

It’s rugby’s age-old problem, the private schoolboy perception and diversity was the word on Castle’s lips when asked about taking rugby forward.

“I think all businesses have to look at diversifying and making sure we're maximising the opportunities because we need strong growth in our pathways, we need young people choosing to play the sport,” she said.

“We have to be a sport of choice and that's how we look after our athletes, how we develop them and how we attract them to our shop front of the Wallabies is really important.”

4. Looking across the ditch 

Castle worked closely with New Zealand Rugby in her time as Netball New Zealand CEO and though she stayed mum on what she learned, that experience will surely have an impact in this new role.

“When I was CEO of Netball New Zealand, netball, cricket and rugby worked really closely together, sharing ideas, sharing high performance (approaches),” she said.

“All of those are learnings that I've developed not only through that time at Netball New Zealand but also at the Bulldogs, so I'll be looking to bring all of those learnings into this environment and share those with the right people,” she said.

5. IPR still on the table

Castle will have an unusual situation thrown at her from the get go, as Rugby Australia continues to negotiate with Andrew Forrest and Minderoo about the introduction of the Indo Pacific Rugby Championship. Though she gave a short answer when asked about Forrest on Tuesday, she said meeting him was on her agenda.

“Certainly I will, that's something that Cameron (Clyne) and I will go and do,” she said.