Raelene Castle, Rugby Australia’s chief executive, has handed in her resignation.
For as long as Castle has been in power, she has attracted criticism from around Australia.
Perhaps some of that criticism has been substantiated.
In Castle’s two and a half years in charge, the Wallabies have dropped from 4th in the World Rugby rankings to 7th while Israel Folau’s highly publicised legal battle with Rugby Australia no doubt damaged Castle’s reputation in some people’s minds.
The sport has also attracted a smaller audience year upon year – although that was already the trend before Castle took over at the end of 2017.
However, Castle has seemingly attracted criticism as much for her outsider status in the game as anything related to her performance as chief executive.
Rugby in Australia has historically been run by private school-educated, male Australians. Castle is none of those things and from the moment she was appointed, she faced opposition.
In the last week, 11 former Wallabies captains signed their names to a letter criticising how the game has been run in Australia, implicating Castle in the mess.
However, the level-headed among us will be painfully aware that the issues with the game in Australia started long before Castle came into power.
John O’Neill, the man who led RA from 1995 to 2003 and again from 2007 to 2013 told The Australian that his longevity was helped by the success of the Wallabies during his tenure, who won the World Cup in 1999 and made the grand final on home soil in 2003.
“If you have winning Super Rugby and Wallaby teams on a consistent basis then administrators look OK,” O’Neill said. “The nexus is so damn obvious. I oversaw a glorious period of on-field success, which made me look like a genius off-field. It’s as simple as that.”
New Zealand Rugby have issued a statement regarding the resignation of Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle.https://t.co/CVgNwpVeoX
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 23, 2020
Castle has had no such luck, with the Australian national side tumbling out of last year’s World Cup in the quarter-finals.
Unfortunately, barely two years in charge hasn’t given Castle much time to stamp her mark on the Wallabies, with the current crop of players mostly products of previous eras.
Notably, the age-grade Australian sides have flourished in recent times, with the Junior Wallabies making the Under 20 World Championship final last year and the Australian Schoolboys making fools of their Kiwi rivals.
The national side will no doubt benefit from these improvements in the future – but Castle won’t be around to see the results.
These facts haven’t been lost on many of the game’s fans, who have taken to social media in the wake of Castle’s resignation:
A commentor who played for a decade says she didn't get his buy in.
3. What have you been doing since you stopped playing. Is it just the Wallabies you support? Raelene doesnt need to walk you down tothe local club to watch or contribute.
So many people focused on how she looks.
— Jo Staples (@leapingfences) April 23, 2020
— Jelisa Apps (@JelisaApps) April 23, 2020
Apart from inheriting a shit fight, working for a sub-standard Board, taking on Foxtel and winning the CEOs job over Phil Kearns, what has @raelenecastle done wrong ?????. I despair for the game I love.
— Cranky old rugby ref (@Cranky_Old_Ref) April 23, 2020
Don’t want to prescribe a narrative to it from the outside. But this feels like a very Australian narrative.. strong female leader kicked out for not being one of the boys.
— Rugby Report Card (@rugby_podcast) April 23, 2020
What a sorry episode. A truly dark time in our game. I feel for Raelene Castle and the RA staff. I hope the 11 Captains are happy, because i don't think many others will be.
— Hugh Cavill (@hughcavill) April 23, 2020
last year I attended a Rugby Lunch put on by the property industry where Phil Kearns was a speaker (along with GeeRob and Bob Dwyer). They were asked who was one player they would bring into the Wallabies. Kearns picked a league player
— Simon R (@Rugbysmartarse) April 23, 2020
This is beyond stupid. These are ex players. That is all. We appreciate their input but why do they have any pull now?
This is not an amateur club where the old boys sit and tell you how good they were.
Rugby has evolved and Rugby Australia needs to too.
Thank you Ralene.
— Wallabywanderer (@Wallabywandere1) April 23, 2020
The gender and appearance based vitriol directed at Raelene Castle on par with the similar misogynistic hate speech experienced by Julia Gillard during her time as PM https://t.co/8sfKHgCzT0
— Lloyd Rothwell (@LloydRothwell) April 23, 2020
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