Castle to take Rugby Australia reins

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Raelene Castle will officially begin as Rugby Australia CEO in January, and her first priority will be to take stock of her new territory.

Castle was announced as the incoming chief executive on Tuesday, ending a months-long process to decide Bill Pulver's replacement. 

The former Canbterbury Bulldogs CEO said she would begin her tenure by 'taking a breath' and building on the bonds she already has with many of the game's major stakeholders.

"The first priority is to take a breath," she said.

"It's been a very big year, it's been a challenging year and this is about some stability moving forward, but it's about building the relationships and building strong relationships with the states and the franchises and making sure we recognise that rugby is an important game right across the country and getting out and about and meeting some of the rugby people and rugby community."

Castle comes into rugby with four years' experience in the Australian sports market, as the Bulldogs CEO, as well as a stint as Netball New Zealand CEO, something that showed her some of the workings of New Zealand Rugby as well.

Significantly, the Wagga-born Castle comes from outside the 'traditional' rugby circles, an element that should appease many of rugby's factions.

"You can always look at it from both sides, coming in with rugby knowledge," Rugby Australia chairman Cameron Clyne said.

"One of the unique advantages of many of the people we deal with from a broadcast and a government partnership and those relationships already exist but also Raelene is a fresh set of eyes without traditional alliances, so that's an opportunity to go out and forge that."

Castle will be rugby's first female CEO, but she was quick to dismiss that element of history as a focal point on Tuesday afternoon.

Raelene Castle and Cameron Clyne after Castle's appointment as Rugby AU CEO. Photo: Getty Images"It’s a consideration and it’s interesting the media have an enormous fascination with it," she said.

"The reality is sport has gender equity in it. There's people from both really delivering, particularly at grassroots level really delivering at grassroots, so I don't think it's an enormous step to have a female chief executive, I'm excited about the opportunity.

"My experience in rugby league was very strong, I don't expect my experience in rugby union to be any different."

Castle beat out roughly 200 applicants to win the appointment, including former Wallabies skipper Phil Kearns, and said though there was a lot of work to be done, she wanted to embrace that.

"I have used that word daunting, but I would prefer to use exciting because it genuinely is an exciting sport that has an international landscape that no other sport in this country has," she said.

"The combination of it, being nation wide and being an international pathway is a genuine strength and we need to make sure we maximising that opportunity."

Bill Pulver will resign. Photo: PhanShe said she would bring with her an intimate knowledge of the Australian market, after her Bulldogs stint, especially.

"It's (the Bulldogs stint) really helped me understand the Australian sporting landscape," she said.

"I think it's a unique landscape, so having had four years here, (understanding) the cultural challenges, opportunities, where the media fit into that landscape and also the opportunity (presented).

"Having always watched everything across rugby, no matter where it was happening here, having an understanding of that has been really helpful.

"That experience both with the Bulldogs and this landscape and also working with a coach like Des Hasler, who's a strong personality, that will help me when Ihave to forge a very strong relationship with Michael (Cheika).


Castle also said she would be finished with her responsibilities as chair of the review of New Zealand Rugby League's poor World Cup showing by the time she began her tenure officially next month.