Ex-Rugby Australia boss Castle lands top Kiwi sports job

Wellington (AFP) –


Raelene Castle was appointed New Zealand's top sports administrator Wednesday, less than seven months after she resigned from a troubled spell as chief of Rugby Australia.

The New Zealand government announced Castle will take over as head of Sport New Zealand, which allocates sports funding from grassroots to Olympic level in the South Pacific nation.

"Raelene brings tremendous breadth and depth of experience as a CEO in sports administration and is a proven people and organisational leader," Sport NZ chairman Bill Moran said.

Castle has previously been chief executive at Netball NZ and the Canterbury Bulldogs rugby league team in Sydney.

But the 49-year-old New Zealander is best known for her tumultuous spell with Rugby Australia which included a costly legal battle after the sacking of star fullback Israel Folau for making homophobic comments on social media.

There were was also the demise of a lucrative TV deal and the Wallabies slide down the world rankings, with Castle finally quitting in April after Rugby Australia laid off most of their staff due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus response will be a major part of Castle's new role, as she helps distribute a NZ$265 million (US$175 million) sport recovery package created by the New Zealand government.

"There is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to solidify the sector and reshape it to be more robust and deliver more participation opportunities," she said.

"I'm looking forward to being part of that work."