Rugby: Kiwi Raelene Castle resigns as Rugby Australia chief executive

Raelene Castle's reign as Rugby Australia boss is over after two-and-a-half years.
Raelene Castle's reign as Rugby Australia boss is over after two-and-a-half years. Photo credit: Getty

Rugby Australia (RA) chief executive Raelene Castle has resigned, ending weeks of speculation over her future.

The Kiwi has been under immense pressure after a series of controversies, including the sacking of Israel Folau and subsequent legal battle, a poor World Cup performance, a sour relationship with former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, plus the failure to secure a broadcast deal.

Earlier this month, RA announced a provisional loss of AU$9.4m at its annual meeting and is staring at a AU$120m revenue black hole this year, if coronavirus prevents rugby from being played. 

Castle took a 65 percent pay cut and laid off 75 percent of RA staff in an attempt to reduced costs. 

But she believes the board no longer wants her in the role, after she was excluded conference call among directors on Wednesday night and she sensed she wasn't wanted the next day. 

A group of 10 former players, led by World Cup-winning captain Nick Farr-Jones and George Gregan, signed a letter calling for a change in RA's administration. Michael Lynagh was originally among the signatories, but withdrew his support.

"I love rugby on every level, and I will always love the code and the people I have had the honour of working with since I took this role," Castle says.

"I made it clear to the board that I would stand up and take the flak, and do everything possible to serve everyone's best interests.

"In the last couple of hours, it has been made clear to me that the board believes my no longer being CEO would help give them the clear air they believe they need.

"The game is bigger than any one individual, so this evening I told the chair that I would resign from the role.

"I will do whatever is needed to ensure an orderly handover. I wish the code and everyone who loves rugby nothing but the best, and I would like to thank the people I work with and the broader rugby community for their enormous support."

Castle was previously Netball New Zealand CEO from 2007-13 and spent time with the NRL's Canterbury Bulldogs, before taking control of RA in 2017.

Raelene Castle and Dave Rennie.
Raelene Castle and Dave Rennie. Photo credit: Getty

With Castle gone, there are concerns incoming Wallabies coach Dave Rennie - as the Sydney Morning Herald reported earlier this month - will reconsider his future.

Before her resignation, Castle told ABC TV she believed Rennie would honour his contract to coach the national side, regardless of her own situation.

"Ultimately, he knows that things can change and I know he has a desperate desire to coach the Wallabies," she said. "He's done a lot of work and he's excited about the young talent coming through.

"He will come here regardless of where I sit."

The Wallabies are due to host Ireland and Fiji in July, although the tests are highly unlikely to go ahead, while the Rugby Championship, also involving New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina, also looks in severe danger.