Raelene Castle: Rugby Australia becomes first major rugby union to appoint female chief executive

Joe Hall
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Rugby Australia Announce New CEO
Castle: "Rugby is an important game right across the country" (Source: Getty)

Rugby Australia has become the first major rugby union to be led by a woman after it appointed Raelene Castle as its new chief executive.

Castle, a former chief executive of Australian rugby league club Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Netball New Zealand, reportedly beat more than 200 candidates for the role.

Rugby Australia, which has been beset by off-field drama as well as dwindling participation numbers, TV audiences and match attendances, said Castle impressed during a "very daunting interview process" with her background in sports administration and commercial nous.

She will replace departing chief Bill Pulver, who opted to step down earlier this year following the controversial decision to axe Super Rugby franchise Western Force from the competition.

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Australian Super Rugby sides lost all 26 matches against New Zealand opposition this year which has led to a decline in fan interest that is believed to have been carried through to the national team.

Meanwhile Western Force's owner has announced his intention to set up a rival Indo Pacific Rugby Championship.

Castle is being touted as a unifying figure who could build bridges across a fractured rugby landscape in Australia.

"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.

"It's about 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 also said that Rugby Australia will need to boost women's competitions with a professional rugby league competition set to be launched.

"We need strong growth in our pathways," she said.

"We need young people choosing to play our sport. That's not just men, that's women. That female market's really hot with the launch of lots of new female competitions.

"So we know that we're in a race and we have to be a sport of choice."

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