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Raelene Castle was always going to replace Bill Pulver as rugby boss

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    Rugby’s worst kept secret is out – Raelene Castle is the new CEO of Rugby Australia.

    Even though there were over 200 applicants for the job, the Wagga-born Kiwi was odds-on.

    The sporting genes are spot on – father Bruce captained the New Zealand rugby league side before becoming a selector, while mother Madeline was a four-time lawn bowls rep at the Comm Games.

    The trail-blazer spent six years as CEO of Netball New Zealand, a major sport across the ditch, and the last four as the first woman CEO in the NRL with the Bulldogs at Belmore.

    When she takes over from Bill Pulver early next year, Castle will be the first woman CEO of a national football code.

    And she won’t be lonely at the St Leonards bunker, with half of the eight-strong board of directors women.

    Ann Sherry, the CEO of Carnival Australia and an advocate for women’s rights, was the first, in 2012.

    Elizabeth Broderick, a lawyer and former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, was next, in January 2016. Pip Marlow, Palmerston North-born and the managing director of Microsoft Australia, joined in February 2016.

    They’re well-credentialled, but what those qualifications have to do with rugby still escapes me. Having just half the board rugby-orientated isn’t exactly a case of horses for courses.

    John Eales, arguably one of the greatest rugby internationals of all time, is the standout on the board, and Dr Brett Robinson, the deputy chairman, was the inaugural skipper of the Brumbies and won 16 Wallaby caps.

    But Paul McLean, who played 31 Tests, and 100 games for Queensland, is hardly an obvious choice (although he was a player) and chairman Cameron Clyne is a bit of a rugby phantom.

    Cameron Clyne

    Cameron Clyne (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

    Like most senior sporting administrators these days, he’s a bean counter with a career in banking, but it takes plenty of research to find his rugby playing status.

    As limited as it is, Clyne played for Victoria against the All Blacks and the Boks, but that’s all the info that’s surfaced.

    Hardly chairmanship material. But there’s hardly anything about Rugby Australia that makes sense.

    And this is what Raelene Castle has to deal with, and it’s not a pretty sight.

    Nor were the pathetic Australian Super Rugby performances last season with 0-26 against their Kiwi counterparts.

    Zero wins and 26 losses? If it wasn’t so serious, it would be laughable.

    The reason is a combination of poor coaching, poor captaincy, and a poor attitude.

    None of the five Australian sides were fit enough to compete, and absolutely no excuse with every squad member a full-time professional.

    To make matters worse, every one of the current board voted in favour of the Western Force being booted out of Super Rugby.

    How can the board members live with themselves that a 30-plus squad was thrown on the scrapheap, having to find another place to play?

    That’s the standard of board Raelene Castle has inherited.

    Thankfully she has proved to be a thick-skinned, tough competitor. She’ll need to be to survive.

    But I picture Castle in a different light – as the saviour, not the survivor, of Australian rugby.

    The code needs a damn good shakeup, and Raelene Castle is the right person to do just that.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (58)

    • Roar Guru

      December 13th 2017 @ 9:31am
      Will Sinclair said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      Not sure why playing credentials are important for the Board, David.

      They’re not being hired to coach the team.

      • December 13th 2017 @ 10:25am
        Kane said | December 13th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

        I’d like to know what David’s playing credentials are to see whether he’s qualified enough to be a rugby journalist.

        Steve Hansen played for Canterbury I believe (equivalent to Victoria) so he probably shouldn’t be coaching the All Blacks… Maybe we need to give the top job to Tana?

        • December 13th 2017 @ 3:51pm
          sheek said | December 13th 2017 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

          Ahhhh Kane,

          Let’s see……….

          David played first grade cricket with Mosman, captaining the team, & also played Subbies rugby with Mosman.

          Edited many editions of Australian rugby yearbook in late 60s & through 70s.

          Initiated Rugby News as sold at suburban rugby grounds way back in 1972 & i believe still going strong. Also edited rugby & cricket magazines in 70s & 80s.

          In 1983, had signatures of intent of 200 players from 8 countries, plus 8 coaches & 8 refs, for a world rugby tournament. It only fell over due lack of a TV backer.

          Probably the first player-manager in Australia in the early 70s. Had cricketers Jeff Thomson, Viv Richards, Alvin Kallicharran, swimmer Steve Holland & golfers Wayne Grady & Bruce Devlin in his stable.

          Was a commentator on numerous Olympic Games & conducted interviews with over 50 famous Australian sportsmen & women committed to video & CD.

          That’s as much as I can remember but I’m sure there’s lots more. That should keep you busy.

          i’ve got an inkling David Lord is very qualified to speak on a range of sports.

          • December 13th 2017 @ 4:30pm
            Train Without A Station said | December 13th 2017 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

            So he’s playing credentials is stubbies Rugby?

          • December 13th 2017 @ 7:24pm
            Kane said | December 13th 2017 @ 7:24pm | ! Report

            So to use David’s argument he’s unqualified to be a rugby reporter because he only played rugby at a subbies level?

            It was a tongue in cheek response to David claiming Clyne wasn’t qualified because he only played against the Springboks and the All Blacks at provincial level, not test.

            • December 13th 2017 @ 7:35pm
              mad mick said | December 13th 2017 @ 7:35pm | ! Report

              Mate if you knew the level of rugby required to play for Vic its no wrap on Clyne.

              • December 13th 2017 @ 8:22pm
                Kane said | December 13th 2017 @ 8:22pm | ! Report

                Nor should it reflect on his rugby knowledge

            • December 13th 2017 @ 8:53pm
              Internal Fixation said | December 13th 2017 @ 8:53pm | ! Report

              Well said Kane.

              I understand Sheek jumping to David’s defence but his criticism
              of Clyne is completely off base on the basis of his playing credentials.

              There are plenty of other points to criticise and he does make a decent one about the Force and the whole board.

              • Roar Pro

                December 14th 2017 @ 11:16pm
                GusTee said | December 14th 2017 @ 11:16pm | ! Report

                In my book you don’t need to have played at the top of the sport to be qualified to write about it or to administer and/or manage it.

                Everyone has their strengths and failings and no one owns the game per se.

                You simply have, in a word, to understand the ETHOS of the game.

                Being a person of undoubted integrity also helps.

                Clyne is ego driven and despite being a brilliant banker, he has proved himself to be a complete prat when it comes to heading rugby in Australia.

                He should fall on his sword and take most of his Board with him.

                If he does then Raelene Castle will have a reasonable chance to prove herself.

        • December 13th 2017 @ 9:11pm
          John said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:11pm | ! Report

          I dont think Canterbury in the 80s was the equivalent to Victoria, more like the Crusaders

      • December 14th 2017 @ 10:25am
        soapit said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

        two words. word count

    • December 13th 2017 @ 9:45am
      R2k said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      Correct me if I’m wrong but when she was head of New Zealand netball didn’t the administration stifle their sides in the Trans Tasman competition by restricting training hours and putting blockages in player selections? To be fair I’m trying to remember back to 2008.
      Regardless I hope that any lessons learned are put to good use and that she’s an improvement.

    • December 13th 2017 @ 9:49am
      Sweaty Prop said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      When will the Board of RA take some responsibility for the situation that they have delivered?

      David, I am fascinated as to how it can be suggested that some Board members were better than others. They should collectively resign to demonstrate their understanding of where they have lead Rugby in Australia.

      Best of luck to Ms Castle, you have taken on a very tough job.

      • Roar Pro

        December 14th 2017 @ 11:37pm
        GusTee said | December 14th 2017 @ 11:37pm | ! Report

        Hey Sweaty Prop, I am in full agreement with you.

    • December 13th 2017 @ 10:19am
      Jimmyjam said | December 13th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

      Hopefully will be a game change…. for the better.

      My one concern (which hopefully will never arise) is that as an admitted and unabashed all black/NZRU fan, should push come to shove where will she stand if/when our (OZ) interests directly and (potentially harmfully) conflict with NZ??

      2003 RWC hosting scenario comes to mind…….

      Could potentially create a significant ethical dilemma

      • December 14th 2017 @ 8:46am
        robert said | December 14th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

        the 2003 hosting rights, plus aru voting for japan for the 2011 world cup, ended up being one of the best things to happen to nz rugby, ended up being one of the worst for aus as history has shown, so maybe someone who can be trusted by the nzru is not such a bad thing, who knows maybe the nzru will listern now to talks about a trans tas comp

    • Roar Rookie

      December 13th 2017 @ 11:12am
      JPR said | December 13th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

      When Ms Castle & Twiggy meet in January it will be in her interest not to include Clyne but replace with Brett Robinson who is currently acting as deputy chairman. There is too much ego being shown by Clyne to allow a positive agreement to be found for the IPRC approval and pathway for international honours. If it is good enough for World Rugby & Asia Rugby, the new AR board must stop the rot and start growing the game.

    • December 13th 2017 @ 11:22am
      DLKN said | December 13th 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

      You describe Paul McLean as “hardly an obvious choice”. Really?

      Jeez – do some research. Paul McLean has a long and distinguished record as a rugby administrator and in business. He’s been a great servant to Australian rugby for decades.

      • December 13th 2017 @ 1:30pm
        Akari said | December 13th 2017 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

        Did not Paul McLean refuse or boycott the WBs tour of NZ in 1982? If he did, it raises concerns about why he was promoted to a RA Board member in the 1st place. No issues with that if he subsequently earned the right to be promoted as I suspect may have been the case.

      • Columnist

        December 13th 2017 @ 2:48pm
        David Lord said | December 13th 2017 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

        DLKN, I don’t have to do any research, I saw every Test in the flesh that Paul McLean played a home, and every game in the flesh he played on the 1981-82 Wallaby tour of Great Britain.

        The only great servant he served was Paul McLean.

        There was no doubt in my mind that 81-82 Wallaby tour should have been the first Grand Slam success, but McLean was the noose around the Wallaby neck.

        The Wallabies fell over the line to beat Ireland 16-12, but lost the next three to Wales 13-18 Scotland 15-24, and England 11-15.

        Despite the losses the Wallabies scored more tries in every game than the opposition, totaling eight tries to three.

        Where the Wallabies lost the Slam was McLean’s appalling goal-kicking in the four Tests, landing just nine from 22 attempts, and keeping Mark Ella out of the side until the third international.

        McLean played inside centre with Michael Hawker injured, but played fullback against England when Hawker returned, displacing the world’s best No 15 – Roger Gould.

        No DLKN, Paul McLean was no great servant of the game for decades, but he was one of the best self-promoters I’ve seen in any sport.

        He was never good enough to play in any of the four internationals on that 81-82 tour, but he did set up the insipid Queensland v NSW rivalry that killed the tour stone dead.

        It was left to the Alan Jones-Andy Slack 1984 Wallabies to record Australia’s only Grand Slam.

        • December 13th 2017 @ 4:17pm
          sheek said | December 13th 2017 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

          Gee David,

          I agree with you on most things but I can’t help but think you’re a bit harsh here, although I myself have lost respect for Mclean.

          You were on the 1981/82 & I respect your first-hand knowledge, which you’ve expressed to me in person.

          But I think coach Bob Templeton, genial fellow that he was, has to wear most of the blame. He lacked the conviction to pick the young guns.

          He saw how well the Ella-Hawker-O’Connor midfield worked in 1980 & for one test against France in 1981, but then discarded it.

          O’Connor played on the the wing for the two tests he wasn’t injured, while Ella only came in for the last two tests, while Hawker played 3 tests in his normal inside centre position.

          In 1980, McLean & Slack were injured for the 1st test vs ABs, but Tempo put them on the bench for the remainder of the series despite being fit to play. He was happy to stick with the young guns.

          The big difference between 1980 & 1981 is that Mark Loane was in South Africa in 1980.

          I think when Loane returned in 1981, his dominant, dogmatic, conservative outlook intimidated Tempo to move away from the Ella-Hawker-O’Connor midfield.

          However, when all is said & done, if McLean had just kicked a couple of goals each test he missed, that would have been good enough for the Wallabies, who still managed to score more tries than each of their opponents.

          McLean, normally a reliable kicker, was woeful on the 1981/82 tour.

          • December 13th 2017 @ 4:23pm
            sheek said | December 13th 2017 @ 4:23pm | ! Report


            i also recall Roger Gould letting a high ball bounce in front of him in front of goal. The ball bounced right into Jim Renwick’s arms who scored Scotland’s only try.

            I think Gould paid for that by being dropped for the last tour test against England.

        • Roar Rookie

          December 13th 2017 @ 4:31pm
          Don said | December 13th 2017 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

          Interesting opinion David, I watched McLean when I was at school so my experience viewing his career is limited to the final years of his career.
          But interesting you choose the 1981 tour as an example of him not deserving his spot in the side.

          Personally I choose the 1982 2nd test match against Scotland to validate why he was a good selection in any Wallabies side.
          You’d recall Bob Dwyer dropping Gould & McLean for the first test in favour of glen and Garry Ella. We lost the first test.

          McLean & Gould were selected for the second test win with McLean kicking 5 penalties and 3 conversions and Gould 2 tries.

          I’ve no doubt you have the advantage of being around teams he was in over the rears and hearing and seeing stuff which has resulted in your clearly low opinion of him. I respect that.

          However, I and plenty of others saw him as a quality player and have also had a fair bit of quality contact with him both in business and through the QRU.

          • Columnist

            December 14th 2017 @ 7:45am
            David Lord said | December 14th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

            Don, I totally agree with your comments of Paul McLean in the Test against Scotland, it was by the length of the straight his finest hour as a Wallaby.

            And I said so on Channel Seven the next day.

            But one Test doesn’t make a career, or you’d have to say Don Bradman couldn’t bat because he made a duck in his last Test innings.

            • December 18th 2017 @ 4:32pm
              Drongo said | December 18th 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

              David, Paul Mclean was a genuine genius and was one of the main players responsible for Queensland becoming one of the best provincial teams in the world by 1980. Few tests were played then compared to now and yes, on that tour his goal kicking, normally very reliable, was a disappointment. But it was not the only reason the Wallabies lost those test matches. In 1982, the Scotland tests displayed how much better Mclean was than Ella at that point in their respective careers. He and Gould turned the result around and should have been selected ahead of the Ellas in the 1st test.

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