Ex-Wallaby winger Drew Mitchell believes Rugby Australia would be foolish to sack Raelene Castle at this stage of the coronavirus pandemic. With rugby on hold around the globe, the sport in Australia has been plunged into financial chaos due to the absence of a new TV deal and an agreeable players salary pay cut.

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Amid the crisis, there have been calls from some quarters for CEO Castle – whose reputation was bruised by the Israel Folau controversy last year – to be pushed aside. However, Mitchell doesn’t believe that should happen yet with so much uncertainty stalking the game. 

Speaking to Jim Hamilton on the latest episode of The Lockdown, the RugbyPass pandemic interview series, the Sydney-based Mitchell tackled the details of the crisis that has enveloped Australian Rugby while also reflecting on his short time in Major League Rugby with Rugby United New York.   

“I know there is a lot of pressure, a lot of talk about Raelene Castle being moved on,” he said. “There is perhaps a bit of a push from a sector of people involved in the game, stakeholders and people who have an interest in the game, to move her on. 

“I don’t think that she needs to be moved on. I don’t think it’s the right time for it. Whether she is the right person for the job or not is not my decision but what is wrong is the timing of it.

“She is deep in discussions with Optus, Fox, Channel 10, potential broadcasting partners. She is deep in discussions with the players. To bring someone in now, to sack her and move her on and bring someone in now and educate them to where we are, not only just educate in terms of where we sit but also build a rapport and relationships with who you have to negotiate with, when things are so uncertain I don’t think we need more uncertainty by bringing in someone new. 

“It’s complex times here in Australian rugby, but when there is a crisis there is opportunity and we have just got to hope that the people in the right positions, the people that are making those decisions, can find the opportunity in this because there has probably been mismanagement in the last decade at least and maybe this means we have a proper look at how we are running things in the back office to set it on a more positive path.”

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Last capped in 2016, Mitchell suggested that Rugby Australia have been struggling to best promote the sport for the guts of a decade. “There has been an element of mismanagement probably over the last decade to be quite honest in terms of where our funds have gone and not putting the right amount of interest and importance into the grassroots pathway… we have been too focused on trying to inspire future Wallabies and Wallaroos as opposed to developing them. 

“We don’t cast the net any way near wide enough to engage with future rugby talent. We only rely really on the private schools to give us our future professional rugby players, both men and women, instead of going to the public schools out in the regional communities, indigenous communities. We need to put more focus on the grassroots areas.”

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