‘Spiteful’ truth behind sad Castle fall

The “bastards” got her in the end.

Raelene Castle wore every shot NRL club land could throw at her and every swipe hurled at her during Australian Rugby’s greatest ever period of crisis — but, even for a veteran, hard-nosed scrapper, Thursday all proved too much for the former Rugby Australia (RA) boss.

The under-siege Castle resigned after reportedly reading a media report she had lost the support of some sections of the RA board of directors.

Castle brought to an end her tumultuous three-year reign on Thursday night, handing in her resignation to RA chairman Paul McLean.

In a statement provided to the ABC, Castle said she was told RA needed “clear air”.

Reports soon emerged on Thursday night that Castle had jumped at shadows, finally flinching for the first time in the face of raging dissidence towards herself and her administration.

She leaves with a proud legacy of being the first female CEO of one of Australia’s top four football codes — but the mud splattered during her tumultuous reign will not be washed off easily.

Castle’s sad end comes after months of personal attacks and criticism — both fair and unfair — surrounding her role as the 15-a-side game started circling the drain in recent years.

Her legacy was a fierce topic of debate across social media on Thursday night, with Australian sport commentators both celebrating her demise and suggesting the former Canterbury Bulldogs CEO was hung out to dry for the failings of others.

Raelene Castle got her man.Source:News Corp Australia

The only thing certain in the debate is that the debate itself played its part in Castle’s demise.

The Australian’s senior rugby reporter Wayne Smith reported on Thursday the fight went out of Castle on Thursday when the “unrelenting attacks” finally reached tipping point this week, culminating in the public ambush of 11 former Wallabies captains calling for sweeping changes to be made at the top of Australian Rugby.

The report also claims Castle appears to have made a knee-jerk decision to resign after reading that some sections of the board had lost faith in her.

After months, years of tackling personal attacks like this head on and pushing through to the other side without dropping her shoulders — this week just happened to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The Courier-Mail’s Jim Tucker reported on Twitter it was fairer to say Castle was “forced out after a year-long bombardment” than that she simply resigned.

Raelene Castle resigns but forced out after a year-long bombardment is a better term. Some justified, some plain spiteful https://t.co/KqGtooULdz

Just days earlier, she is reported to have told Smith: “You can’t let the bastards win”.

But, having kept the wolves at the door for months, Castle finally gave in.

“She is a stubborn person and at times paranoid, endlessly hunting for the source of leaks,” The Australian reported earlier this week.

“If she continues in this vein, she will quickly lose the support of her fellow RA workers and that would be fatal for her.

“There is no question that good leaders can have bad luck, just as bad leaders can have good luck. What did Napoleon say about lucky generals, after all? Castle has had rotten luck so far, and that has confused the situation. Good leader? Bad leader? What she is, however, is a fighter and heaven knows rugby needs all the scrappers it can muster at the moment.”

Phil Kearns was among the captains to call for change.Source:News Corp Australia

In a prophetic warning earlier this week, Smith forecast the unceasing attacks were finally taking a toll on Castle.

Days later McLean was holding her resignation.

“She is a fighter to the core but common sense suggests she cannot take much more and it may be that the long, lonely walk down a deserted corridor awaits,” Smith reported.

It ends a tumultuous era of Australian rugby with Castle overseeing the Wallabies’ shambolic quarter-final exit at last year’s Rugby World Cup where her relationship with former coach Michael Cheika reportedly fell apart.

The former Canterbury Bulldogs chief executive has also been criticised for her handling of the Israel Folau legal battle and the dire situation the game finds itself in as it tries to find an interested TV partner for a broadcast deal beginning next year.

Castle, who took over the job in 2017, also suffered the sting of having to announce last month that the game had recorded a loss of $9.4 million for 2019, according to a preliminary independent financial audit.

Despite the bleak outlook, there are many commentators that maintain Castle has simply been held up as a scapegoat, unfairly paying the price for the sport’s systematic failings over a long period of time.


Phil Kearns and George Gregan during the 2019 Foxtel Rugby World Cup launch.Source:News Corp Australia

The Daily Telegraph’s Jamie Pandaram reports the 11 former Wallabies captains demanding change at Rugby Australia headquarters will now turn their attention to the game’s board of directors.

“Raelene Castle’s resignation as Rugby Australia CEO comes one day after letter from 11 former Wallabies captains demanded entire administration stand down. Couple of other board members still in firing line,” Pandaram wrote on Twitter.

While many turned their attention to what will come next for Rugby Australia, many other Aussie commentators preferred to vent their fury at Castle being forced to walk the plank.

Veteran Channel 7 sports presenter Jim Wilson wrote on Twitter it was deplorable that Castle was made to take the heat while the rest of the board has largely avoided public outcry.

“Raelene took on a tough gig and that board also needs to be held accountable. The total spotlight on her has been deplorable,” Wilson wrote.

ABC Offsiders commentator Richard Hinds wrote on Twitter that it is “unfair” that Castle was held to a higher standard simply because she is a woman.

“I’ve no idea whether Raelene Castle was a good CEO or a disaster. I’m 100% certain women in power are still held to a much higher account than men,” Hinds posted.

“That’s not an excuse for her performance. It’s just where we are at.”

What a sorry episode. A truly dark time in our game. I feel for Raelene Castle and the RA staff. I hope the 11 Captains are happy, because i don't think many others will be.

When @raelenecastle got the job with @RugbyAU, I remember feeling worried for her because of the mammoth job ahead of her. Raelene is a talented administrator, a kind woman and someone I admire greatly. I wish her well and wonder where to for rugby now?!

Trailblazer and a strong intelligent leader that needs to be praised 👏 #yourlossrugby

Sport is a bloody brutal business. Thoughts go out to @Todd_Greenberg & @raelenecastle both excellent administrators. They both always supported me in my career. I’m sure something brighter for you both is just around the corner. Thank you for your service to footy!

Thank you @raelenecastle for everything you have done for @RugbyAUS. You are the most resilient, intelligent, committed person I know. So full of grace. Thank you for your leadership. Now it’s time for a well deserved rest. @malechampions @Todd_Greenberg

Breaking: Raelene Castle resigns as head of Rugby Australia. Interview now on @abc730. There will be all sorts of claims and counter claims in coming days about who should take what blame, but what is not in doubt is that Australian rugby is in deep crisis. https://t.co/807loBoT43


“I love rugby on every level and I will always love the code and the people I have had the honour of working with since I took this role,” she said.

“I made it clear to the board that I would stand up and take the flak and do everything possible to serve everyone’s best interests.

“In the last couple of hours, it has been made clear to me that the board believes my no longer being CEO would help give them the clear air they believe they need.

“The game is bigger than any one individual — so this evening I told the chair that I would resign from the role.

“I will do whatever is needed to ensure an orderly handover. I wish the code and everyone who loves rugby nothing but the best and I would like to thank the people I work with and the broader rugby community for their enormous support.”

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