Former Canterbury NRL chief executive Raelene Castle has made sporting history by becoming the first woman to head a major Australian football code.
The New Zealander was announced as the successor to incumbent chief executive Bill Pulver on Tuesday.
“Rugby is a sport for everybody and there are numerous opportunities for both male and female athletes, whether you’re at a social level, competitive level or an international level,” Castle told a news conference in Sydney.
Castle stepped down as Canterbury’s CEO in May. She said her time at the club would be beneficial to her new role.
“It has helped me understand the Australian sporting landscape. It is a unique landscape,” she said.
“Having had four years here at the Bulldogs — the cultural challenges, opportunities, where the media fit into that landscape — and having watched everything across rugby, having an understanding of that has been really helpful.”
Pulver announced he would stand down as ARU boss when confirming in August that Perth’s Western Force was being cut from Super Rugby.
His contract was due to expire in February, but it was announced at the press conference that Castle would start on January 15.
Castle was the first female CEO of an NRL club. Prior to that she headed up Netball New Zealand.
At the Bulldogs, Castle oversaw three finals appearances, including 2014’s losing grand final.
But her final year at the club was less successful as coach Des Hasler was re-signed for two years in April before being sacked after the club finished 11th.
The debacle led to Hasler taking the Bulldogs to court, seeking $2 million in damages after allegedly being told his contract was not binding.
Pulver has also endured a difficult 2017, with much of the anger over the Western Force’s axing from Super Rugby directed towards the Sydneysider.
Castle’s first task will be to repair fractured relationships within the rugby community. Her appointment is being widely seen as an attempt at peacemaking after the Western Force controversy.