Stability to be Castle's measure of success

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

After one of rugby's most tumultous years, new Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle is looking for stability.

Castle officially began as the new chief executive on Monday, with a large task on her hands after a dire Super Rugby season.

The former Canterbury Bulldogs CEO said her measurement for growth and success would be simple in 2018.

“(We want to see) some stability and some moving forward that people can see across all those different things - the performance of the Wallabies, community engagement, making sure we've got some strong commercial programs in place,” she said.

“Those'll be the measures across the sport that people will say, ' What does success look like in the first 12 months?'”

It was a tough year for the Waratahs in 2017. Photo: Getty ImagesWhile on-field performance is largely out of her hands, Castle will be working closely with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, set to meet with the national mentor on Tuesday.

“The relationship between the CEO and the coach is incredibly important and it's about making sure that we find an engagement that works really well that we can help each other and work closely together,” she said.

“At the moment I'm really in information-gathering stage because it is very early days.

“It's a bit like drinking out of the fire hydrant, it comes at you really quickly and you only get a little bit of it, so that's what’s going to be important to make sure I've really got that key pieces of feedback.”

Castle will also be meeting with all the state unions in the coming months and said talent retention would also be a focus as she embarks on her tenure.

“If we're developing the talent, we want to make sure we keep hold of the best of them in that place where they're playing schoolboy rugby XVs, which is such an important part of many schools and what success looks like from those schools,” she said.

“We need to make sure we're capturing those athletes as they move into that semi-professional and professional space.

“That is an important transition - we have lost too many to rugby league over the time, so that is something we'll be looking to make sure we shore up.”

One of Castle’s first key challenges will be dealing with Karmichael Hunt’s most recent drug charges, with little light shed on the next step.

Karmichael Hunt is back in the Wallabies frame. Photo: ARU MediaHunt is set to face court in Brisbane on Monday January 29, when Castle said the next step would be better known.

“We're at a stage where they we've agreed with Karmichael and the Reds that he will stand down and not be involved,” she said.

“Until we really get the final feedback from the police and also from the court date which is late January, we really can't do anymore until then.

“We're in a little bit of a holding and investigation pattern at the moment.”

Castle said she was satisfied that rugby had a strong drugs policy in place to deal with alleged drug use.

“We've worked with RUPA, there are plans in place at the moment, which are very similar to what the other national codes in this country and how they deal with those situations,” she said.

“I think the reality is for young athletes there's a chance to make a mistake and be forgiven for that but if you keep making mistakes, that makes the conversation much more challenging.

“As we work through that process, we'll look at what the landscape presents for us.”