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Opinion

Raelene Castle's tenure has been a failure – what else did RA expect?

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Editor
7th December, 2019
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15957 Reads

Raelene Castle is on borrowed time. After the botched handling of the Israel Folau situation, the Rugby Australia CEO’s position is surely untenable.

On Castle’s watch, Folau did what he did – I’m not going to rehash it, I’ve made my views pretty clear – then was paid millions of dollars and received an apology.

Doesn’t matter that he, in turn, apologised to RA. The overwhelming narrative is that they said sorry to him and gave him a butt-ton of cash – the exact figure remains elusive but it’s more than the zero he deserved – which was everything he wanted.

And in sport, when your opponent gets everything they want, it means they won.

Which means you lost.

And RA didn’t so much lose the Folau match as get completely pasted. It was a shellacking.

I’m sure the devoted Christian is enjoying the David versus Goliath nature of it too – Folau may stand 193 centimetres tall, but he was the little guy taking on a national sporting body.

Didn’t he make them look silly with nothing more than a proverbial rock in his hand?

Then, when asked by a journo if Folau would ever play for the Wallabies again, Castle liberally applied salt to the wound:

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“Never say never, right? It would be crazy for me to say that.”

It would be crazy for you to say that. That’s some masochistic shit right there.

It capped off a disastrous year for the code in Australia.

The CEO fell out spectacularly with the national coach, leading to an embarrassing row at the Australian embassy in Tokyo during the World Cup.

The Wallabies, of course, played to their World Rugby ranking of sixth at said tournament, getting knocked out at the quarter-final stage.

The men in gold also continued their historic run of Bledisloe failures, while the Brumbies papered over the enormous crack that is the state of our Super Rugby franchises.

Brumbies Allan Alaalatoa and Christian Lealiifano

(AAP Image/Rohan Thomson)

Things are so bad on the field that people are actually pointing to the Junior Wallabies’ second place at this year’s Under 20 Championship as a reason to be happy.

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Does no one else realise how pathetic that is? Our cause for celebration is that our Under-20s are runners up. I’m not having a go at those kids, but what other code in this great nation points to their juniors who didn’t even win and says: “See, things aren’t that bad.”

Our non-elite players got a silver medal. That’s not an acceptable top-line achievement for a multi-million-dollar sporting enterprise’s entire year.

And while there are many people and factors that led to this car-crash of a year, the CEO was at the wheel.

Castle has to go.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that this means our sporting landscape goes back to being run overwhelmingly by men.

Which is undisputedly a bad thing.

At a time when women’s sport is on an unstoppable rise, we need a reflection of it in our sporting boardrooms and administrations.

If I can paraphrase Nell Scovell, a fairer sampling of humanity will always produce better outcomes.

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And in Australia, the embarrassing truth is that we have more CEOs named Andrew than chief executives who are women.

RA broke an entrenched, sexist, shit mould by naming Castle in the top job. They shouldn’t have to be applauded – it should just be the norm – but it was a groundbreaking appointment, so credit where credit’s due.

But it was a very Rugby Australia act – do the right thing the wrong way. Appoint a woman CEO, except the woman they appointed was coming off what was, at best, a tumultuous tenure at the Canterbury Bulldogs.

The NRL club had some success on Castle’s watch, sure, but the Dogs’ past two years point to her having left the place in a worse state than she found it.

While then-chairman Ray Dib said Castle had “strengthened all areas of the club and will leave us in a strong position for the new chief executive”, since Castle left at the end of 2017, the Dogs have cleaned out their roster, finished 12th in consecutive years, and paid Des Hasler an undisclosed sum not to be their coach after a messy contract saga.

We learn from our mistakes, so I’m not saying Castle did not deserve another gig somewhere, but surely RA should have hired someone leading head office with a track record of success.

Raelene Castle

(AAP Image/Daniel Munoz)

With Castle, they ended up getting pretty much what the Doggies did – players leaving, poor on-field performances and legal disputes leading to people receiving seven-figure sums not to be on their books.

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So the board definitely need to wear their share of the blame – really, RA needs a hard restart, with the entire board getting the boot – but no CEO can survive with the excuse “It’s not my fault I was hired.”

While rugby in Australia has been in a state of decline since the end of the 2003 World Cup, it can’t be acceptable to simply say that Castle inherited a basket case so it’s not her fault it continues to be crap.

The slide needs to cease but under Castle’s watch, it’s sped up.

If the slide isn’t stopping, the buck needs to.

Raelene, it may not be all your fault, but this shit-show is your shit-show.

It’s time to call it a day.