New Sport NZ CEO Raelene Castle learns hard lessons from setbacks across Tasman

Raelene Castle has held down some of the toughest jobs in sport, but she balks at any suggestion that's turned her into a hard-nosed administrator.

"People that work with me all the time wouldn't say I'm like that," she tells Newshub. "I'm certainly not like that at home - my family wouldn't let me get away with that." 

In fact, the new Sport NZ chief executive sees herself quite differently.

"I try to work really hard to make myself authentic and approachable, because I think that's part of good leadership."

So after such an unceremonious departure from Rugby Australia, where she experienced the very worst of sports administrative life, why is she throwing herself into another high-profile role? 

"Because I learnt a lot and that's the thing with experiences you go through, whether they're fantastic experiences, you learn alot from them, but you also learn a lot more from experiences that don't go so well," she says. 

Castle learned first hand from the Israel Folau saga that promoting diversity and inclusivity is not easy, and with Sport NZ's commitment to ensuring every Kiwi has the opportunity to be involved in sport and recreation, she has her work cut out. 

"Diversity is enormously important, and making everyone feel inclusive, but also being able to have robust debate, is what moves the conversation forward - you just need to express your views in a respectful way." 

Coming from a family of high achievers has a lot to do with her mental fortitude. Mum Marlene is a three-time Commonwealth Games medallist, while dad Bruce was a former NZ Kiwis rugby league captain. 

Raelene was a competitive netballer, so with her parents’ support, failure was not something to shy away from.

"We'll support you if you're successful, but we will also support you if you trip over or fail," she says. "So I take that with me everyday, why wouldn't I step up and have a go at that." 

And with New Zealand playing host to the women's cricket, football and rugby World Cups over the next three years, Castle has a unique opportunity to create a legacy. 

"We know, following each of those World Cups, we'll have to be ready to go," she says. "We need to make sure we can deal with the additional participation, which will be an amazing outcome." 

Because the 49-year-old firmly believes sport participation teaches important life skills. 

"You learn how to win gracefully and learn how to lose gracefully," she laughs. "I wasn't always successful with that."

But she plans to succeed at Sport NZ, a new journey Castle wants to take all Kiwis on. 

"If you are active, keep doing it and if you're not active, just start."