Flat White

Castle falls

24 April 2020

10:07 AM

24 April 2020

10:07 AM

“Thank God.” 

I’m sure that is what Israel Folau would like to Tweet right now.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Rugby Union Raelene Castle has finally resigned after being told she had lost the support of the board. 

Castle presided over a code that is now understood to be nearly $16 million in debt. 

There is no contract with Foxtel or any other TV network going forward. 

In less than two and a half years, Castle has displayed continual pattern behaviour which has resulted in disaster for a sport that is in real danger of disappearing as a professional sport. 

Yet, until her resignation, she was in line to receive a $114,000 performance bonus! 

The feminist sisterhood, including the ABC and 7.30 Report, are already jumping up and down alluding to the dominant male makeup of the Rugby Australia board of directors for Castle’s removal (there is only one other woman on it). 

However, conveniently not mentioned in that narrative is that it is basically the same board that appointed a woman to be its CEO in 2017. 

No one can deny that Raelene Castle’s management of Australian Rugby Union has been eyeraising. 

It has been a tumultuous time. 

No Midas Touch here. More like a classic case of reverse Midas Touch to be frank. The professional code in Australia has been destroyed in both reputation and performance. 

Rugby Australia revealed a $9.4million loss in its unaudited 2019 report. yet gave itself a 72 per cent rating. How on earth can that add up? 

The Israel Folau controversy should have been a wakeup call for Castle herself. 

But as always, someone in the top job never quite sees what people in the real world see. 

Mainstream Australia saw a star player, the star player, who simply stated his religious views on his Twitter account. 

His tweet was a direct quote from the Bible. 

Other religions hold the same devout views that Christians like Folau do.  

Australia is a democracy. 

Ironically, no one targeted in Folau’s tweet took offence or launched action against him, despite the continuing all-pervasive spectre of our authoritarian anti-discrimination laws. 

Instead, it was Castles and Rugby Australia who saw red. They terminated Folau’s contract saying he had breached the organisation’s code of conduct. 

So Folau sued. 

Raelene Castle tried to evoke trendy buzzwords like inclusiveness and other nonsensical PC-speak. She dug in and claimed the organisation would not apologise. 

But eventually, after much publicity and costly legal action, Rugby Australia was forced to apologise and settled the dispute with Folau by paying him many millions of dollars for breach of contract. 

Mainstream Australia saw the repeated cringeworthy ‘inclusiveness’ phrase as meaning inclusiveness for some but not others, notably those who were Christian or those who held conservative views. 

Folau’s life was destroyed by Castle’s relentless pursuit of what appeared to be a Quixotic crusade at a time when the game’s future was on the line 

Then there was her working relationship, or lack thereof, with former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. 

It turns out that there was little or no relationship in the lead up to the World Cup and Cheika was removed after Australia’s disastrous performance in the game’s biggest showcase event. 

In any sport, when players lose faith in the coach, the board sacks the coach. But when the coach loses faith in the CEO? We await Cheika’s tell-all book to set that record straight.  

But the very fact the Rugby Australia board did not act sooner to remove Raelene Castle as CEO has reflected badly on it. 

One wonders what else had to go wrong before the board came to its senses. 

They seemed to ignore the missing television deal, the World Cup failure, the Folau disaster that disenfranchised rugby’s conservative heartland and pending financial disaster. They turned a deaf ear to loud cries from former Wallabies greats who raised concerns and had repeatedly called for her to be removed for many months.  

Naturally though, no board ever wants to admit they perhaps made a mistake in an appointment. 

Australia’s former World Cup winning captain Nick Farr-Jones is believed to have recently approached Rugby Australia chair Paul McLean. 

Apart from being a champion player, Farr-Jones is a well credentialed, respected investment banker and businessman who has held many directorships and contributed to the game’s administration as chairman of the NSW rugby union. 

Farr-Jones offered to introduce McLean to some capable and experienced former rugby executives to help rebuild the rugby brand. 

Rugby Australia has now listened. 

But at what cost? 

Rugby Australia appointed its first female CEO. Tick that box for political correctness. 

But Raelene Castle came with baggage from her time as CEO at the Canterbury Bulldogs rugby league club where it is claimed she left the club in a worse financial state that when she took over.  

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone deserves a second go in life 

But pattern behaviour is hard to change unless it is called out and people go back and re-learn the basics. 

Rugby Australia did not do its homework properly. It should have hired someone to lead it who had a history of success regardless of being a woman or man. 

They get one more chance now. If they don’t get it right, their game may not survive.  

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments