Raelene Castle in line to lead NRL's Bulldogs
ADRIAN PROSZENKO AND BRAD WALTER
Netball New Zealand chief executive Raelene Castle is a leading contender to become the NRL's first woman chief executive at the Canterbury Bulldogs club.
The Bulldogs are down to a handful of candidates for the prestigious role to replace outgoing boss Todd Greenberg with Castle, Brumbies boss Andrew Fagan and Rugby Union Players' Association chief executive Greg Harris also believed to be in contention.
However, no candidate will garner more attention than Castle, who will create history if she takes the reins of the blue and whites. While another Kiwi, Liz Dawson, was chief executive of the Adelaide Rams during Super League, no woman has been at the helm at club level since the NRL was formed.
The Bulldogs are close to making a call on Greenberg's successor and, if Castle is successful, her appointment will be a timely one. The NRL recently celebrated its Women in League round, at which NRL boss Dave Smith spoke of his desire to see more women reach the top levels of administration.
Attempts to contact Castle, Greenberg and Bulldogs chairman Ray Dib were unsuccessful.
While he won't have any say in the selection, coach Des Hasler is likely to meet the remaining applicants.
If her CV is anything to go by, Castle is a strong chance. She has vast experience in the corporate and sporting worlds and even has a family link to rugby league. Her father, Bruce, won the Rothville Trophy as the Auckland Rugby League competition player of the year in 1966 and went on to play two Tests for the Kiwis, one as captain. Her mother, Marlene, is a former world champion lawn bowler with three Commonwealth Games medals.
As the boss of netball in the country since 2007, Castle is considered the most influential woman in New Zealand sport.
The profile of netball, and the Silver Ferns in particular, has increased during her tenure and the Kiwis currently hold bragging rights over their trans-Tasman rivals after winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
It's not the only sporting role Castle has undertaken, with experience in sponsorship and event management in marquee events such as the Rugby World Cup or the America's Cup.
She also has a strong corporate background following stints at Telecom, Fuji Xerox, Southern Cross Healthcare and BNZ.
A former representative-level netball, tennis and lawn bowls player, Castle is also unafraid to speak her mind. Earlier this year, she labelled the Australian market "chauvinistic" as she battled to seal a broadcast partner for netball's ANZ Championship.
Should Castle get the Canterbury job, it would be a timely fillip for the code. The attitudes of players toward women have again come into question after Queenslander Katie Lewis claimed she was assaulted by South Sydney and Maroons star Ben Te'o. The Rabbitohs forward has denied wrongdoing and charges have not been laid.
There are currently 19 women in senior management or board positions at NRL clubs. While the number of female administrators stands at 2500 across the code - and the ARLC itself appointed Harris Farm supremo Catherine Harris as one of the inaugural directors - those in senior management are still the exception rather than the norm.
With more than 6000 women playing the game and 45 per cent of the game's fans as female, Smith recently stated it was time to "place more value on the significant contribution of women in league".
- The Dominion Post