Relationship-mending on Castle's agenda

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

There may be vast changes in Australian rugby in 2018, but new chief executive Raelene Castle won’t be rushing to turn things on their head just yet.

Castle began in her new job on Monday, with plenty of priorities to sort out, but her first will be to hear the concerns of those outside the Rugby Australia building.

Tension between Rugby AU, the state and community bodies in rugby has long been an obstacle for the code, but Castle won’t be trying to throw her influence around too soon.

“I have a philosophy when you start a new job, that you should listen for the first six weeks and not have an opinion on anything and then when you think you might be ready, listen for another two weeks,” she said.

“That's hard when you come into a role like this because people are looking for you to have a view and opinions on things.

“I'll be doing a lot more listening than I'll be talking over the next six-to-eight weeks.”

The four Super Rugby states ratified Castle’s appointment, a first for Australian rugby, but it will take more than that to fully win over rugby stakeholders across the country.

The axing of the Force and the legal battles that followed in 2017 have left the most bitter of tastes in many WA fans, amid new reports of an ASIC investigation into Rugby AU’s dealings with the Force and Rebels.

Visits to the state bodies is a priority and already on day one, the new chief executive was inquiring how quickly she can visit the west.

“i think we have a state over there that has produced and continues to produce some good rugby talent and we need to find a way we can consistently engage with them,” she said.

“I've literally this morning talked about trying to get them in the schedule so we can work through that and make sure it's not just a dip in to, it's a couple of days of time where we can actually really engage and build  those relationships because that's what it's all about.”

Castle said Rugby AU’s working group could continue to discuss plans for an Indo Pacific Rugby Championship with WA billionaire Andrew Forrest, with the competition still yet to be set in stone.

And perhaps her strongest olive branch is, she admitted, that she comes in a fresh face separated from the events of the past year.

“The but is that I don't have anything to do with it,” she said.

“I can say I understand there's been some very challenging times and I can hear all of that concern but I can say, 'Right, we need to draw a line in the sand and say this is how we are going to build a relationship to move forward and how Rugby Australia wants to engage you’.

“Whilst yes there's going to be some really difficult conversations, I have the luxury of a clean slate of the first wee while, that'll probably last three months then I'm back into just everyone will have those expectations."