Poole will do things her way for Kiwi netball

TOP WOMAN: Hilary Poole.
TOP WOMAN: Hilary Poole.

It's doubtful Hilary Poole will ever come out and label anyone chauvinistic.

Early indications are that the new chief executive of Netball New Zealand (NNZ) will be a safe and able pair of hands and less likely to be as robust and provocative as the departed Raelene Castle.

Castle was the right CEO at the right time for NNZ. They needed traction in the sports market place and she gained it for them, partly by dint of making remarks which caught people's attention. 

Bewildered by not being able to find an Australian broadcast partner to join Sky in televising the trans-Tasman Netball League earlier this year, Castle said she'd never come across a more chauvinistic business environment in her life.

Poole, whose appointment as Castle's successor was confirmed yesterday, doesn't come across as being quite as forthright. But the Hockey New Zealand CEO, who'll switch camps to netball in October, says people shouldn't assume she's a soft touch.

''Often you make decisions which don't make you the most popular person in the world but that's part of leadership and you've got to able to make those calls,'' Poole said.

And, when she does, they won't be made in a kneejerk way.

''I'm quite a collaborative and democratic leader; I like to really understand and be well-informed. There will be challenges, there's always challenges.

''When you're working in sport, you're working in a community. It's like working in a school and you're working with people so you never know what's going to come at you.''

Poole's four years at Hockey NZ have been marked by success at the elite level. The womens Black Sticks have risen from No 11 in the world to No 3, while the men have gone from nine to six.

Poole's proud of that but not as pleased as she is about the contribution sports like hockey make at grassroots level. As an enthusiastic ''netball, rowing, rugby and cricket mum'' to three teenaged children, Poole is almost more committed to sport at community rather than high-performance level.

''Somebody said to me: do I have a netball hero? Well, I don't,'' she said.

''Obviously I'm a huge fan of the Silver Ferns but my heroes are the volunteers and as a sporting leader it's your responsibility to provide them with really efficient and effective utilisation of their time.

''So you've got to have good coaching programmes, your events need to be well run, your officiating first-class. Sport in New Zealand doesn't happen without volunteer involvement and engagement and that's probably one of my key learnings from hockey.''

It was also one of the things that attracted NNZ to her. Poole's gender was just a bonus, said acting NNZ chairman John Bongard.

Castle liked to say that as New Zealand's premier female sport, netball should have a woman at the helm. But Bongard said gender was not part of the recruitment process.

''There were some male candidates but the people that came out on top were, in this case, female. But it was definitely on merit and merit alone.''

Fairfax Media