Diversity key focus for new Sport NZ chief Raelene Castle

It was one of the most divisive sporting issues in years, but Raelene Castle has revealed the Israel Folau saga turned her into a better leader.

On Wednesday, Castle was unveiled as the Sport New Zealand's new chief executive, taking over from the departing Peter Miskimmin, who leaves at the end of the year.

Castle is keen to put a tumultuous end to her tenure at Rugby Australia behind her, with diversity once again on the agenda for her new role.

"It was a very polarising issue, and it wasn't just polarising for a sport like rugby, it was polarising for a whole sport sector," Castle tells Newshub.  

The decision to sack Israel Folau for his homophobic social media posts, the subsequent court battle and the multi-million dollar payout that followed changed Castle.

"It certainly taught me a lot, gave me a lot of experiences," she says. 

"There's certainly things I'd do differently if I had my time again, but Ilike to call them battle scars. Other people will call them experience."

Castle's return home to lead Sport New Zealand is the latest in an impressive resume, which includes six years at Netball NZ, four years with the NRL's Canterbury Bulldogs, and three divisive years at Rugby Australia.

And as challenging as her time with Rugby Australia was, Castle insists she has no regrets.

"I'd do it all over again if I had my time again. Even understanding and knowing, I wouldn't change it," she says.

Her aim now is to bring meaningful change to Sport NZ. 

Castle wants to see a sector that's more diverse, particularly at coaching level.

"Because we're now in that cycle of professional female athletes playing in the team codes, as those women retire they're more likely to step up into those coaching roles," she notes.

Castle will take a bigger picture approach to the role, but will avoid any sweeping changes, which she believes is unnecessary.

"We don't want to change those building blocks, we want to make them more stable and make sure we can see more people having more great experiences."

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