The Sydney sharks are circling Raelene Castle - Green and Gold Rugby
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The Sydney sharks are circling Raelene Castle

The Sydney sharks are circling Raelene Castle

With the World Cup in the rear vision mirror and Super Rugby still six weeks away, this is normally the dead zone for rugby. We eat ham, we watch cricket and generally nurse the bumps and bruises we picked up supporting the Wallabies this year.

But with a board election and new Chair in 2020, a TV rights deal currently in negotiation and of course the Folau saga, the game has emerged from its hibernation to take centre stage.

Today we truly entered the twilight zone, with a report in the Australian that some board members have tapped John O’Neill to potentially return as Chair, though he’s requested to pick his own CEO (with Phil Kearns mentioned as a possible candidate) and Board. These are demands more befitting an African dictator, but we’re in Australian rugby here so anything goes.

RaeleneThe same report cites a potential breakdown in negotiations with Optus Sport, as the provider seeks to expand its European Soccer content.

This caps off a fortnight of reporting highly critical of Raelene Castle, with much of it coming in the Australian. We had former Channel 9 head David Leckie calling for her resignation (and the appointment, naturally, of Phil Kearns), the endless coverage of the Folau saga, and on Friday it was 2GB’s Ben Fordham who reported Raelene could be sacked this week.

To put it bluntly, this all stinks to high heaven. There are valid criticisms that can be levelled at Raelene Castle, with the Folau situation being front and centre. But you can also point to many achievements (the appointment of a world class Wallaby coaching panel being the most recent), and her actions throughout the Folau saga are at very least rational and defensible. I’d argue as a side point here that it was a complete and utter shit sandwich and there was no right answer, but that’s not the point of this article.

The sharks are circling. And by ‘sharks’ I mean the Sydney old boys network, of which Leckie, Kearns, O’Neill and Fordham are card-carrying members. Leckie’s on the board at Easts, the Fordham family are noted powerbrokers and recently bailed out the Shute Shield.

There are solid rumours that Kearns is agitating behind the scenes for the CEO gig he missed last year, and he’s close to a number of Board members.

TV rights looms as a major test of Castle’s leadership, and according to the media it’s a test she’s currently failing. But let’s look a bit closer – the agitators on News Ltd mastheads can hardly be seen as impartial, given Foxtel is clearly a key player in any negotiations. My suspicions are raised even further when the reporters in question aren’t Wayne Smith or Jamie Pandaram, who are actually connected to the RA administrators.

These same mastheads have breathlessly reported the breakdown in negotiations with Foxtel and the involvement of Optus, who now are apparently looking to walk away. It looks suspiciously like they are trying to drive down the bidding price for rugby rights.

Which brings us to today, and the prospect of a leadership challenge on Raelene Castle by Phil Kearns and/or John O’Neill. It honestly wouldn’t shock me if they had their own ‘Make Rugby Great Again’ hats made especially for the occasion.

It would be laughable if it wasn’t entirely predictable. But with 2GB and News Ltd on their side, it is a challenge that needs to be taken very seriously indeed.

The stalking horse

The stalking horse

The legitimacy of these rumours shows you everything that is wrong with the game in this country. It’s a spiteful attempt by a bitter yet powerful minority to return the game to the 80s and 90s, the clubland days of amateur glory.

It’s a total hatchet job on Castle, who in the eyes of many has done a laudable job as CEO thus far. But the fact she’s a Kiwi woman who is our first CEO outside the Sydney old boys network meant she was always going to be carrying additional weight in her saddlebag.

And it would not be a stretch to suggest TV rights are tied to Kearns’ candidacy, given his lengthy history on Fox Sports and his good relationship with current Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany.

This story is far from over, and Castle may yet survive. But as events unfold, I’d be reading every word with a sceptical eye and a mind to the intentions of the writer and publication involved. Nobody here is objective, and there are very few authors you can trust.

We’ve got media barons, the Sydney old boys, the former administrators, and not a rugby ball in sight. It’s a Netflix miniseries waiting to happen.

  • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

    As WA Rugby is increasing cut out of the Australian Rugby scene, I am not sure if this change could be good or bad for WA. What does Rugby WA has to loose from a change?
    Surely RA cannot cut funding to WA any further, they already plan to axe the NRC and the relationship with Twiggy and the Western Force are poisonous and have not improved with the current administration.
    The current Clyne administration do not belive that the third largest rugby playing state deserve to be treated at least on par with Victoria and ACT, he bundles us with Tasmania and South Australia?
    Will the new administration deliver a change in attitude or unite those oppose to the Sydney’s domination of Australian rugby or drive Rugby Australia into bankruptcy? Ironically in all these scenarios WA Rugby has more to gain than loose. Off with their heads!!!

    • Who?

      Hannes, the one thing that would be worse for WARugby than the current administration is a new administration run by the Sydney Old Boys network. Which would be exactly the situation created by a JON/Kearns takeover.
      I’m not sure that Castle’s a great administrator, but calls for her head over things that have largely been outside of her control are unfair.

      • JJ

        I think the split between RA (& Super rugby) and WA (& Twiggy & GRR) is locked in for 3-4 years at least. I cannot believe Twiggy is ever going to abandon GRR and the new teams. He said any future mergers will be on our (WA and GRR) terms. So Super comp and SANZAAR is going to have to collapse first.
        The current Western Force players never got considered or even mentioned as possible Wallabies in 2019. Remember the Force flogged the Canberra Vikings 41-3 in the NRC final.
        If the new RA board next year axe the NRC, the gap will be even bigger with WA.

        Twiggy said dealing with the RA and Clyne in the past “”was like taking a refreshing dip in a swimming pool full of glue!””
        Twiggy is however on record of being fairly complimentary about Raelene Castle.

        • Who?

          Your last sentence is very pertinent, and was in mind when I typed my first reply. I’m very interested to see what she does when Clyne’s out of the way, and to see if our new RA Chair is perhaps less ego driven and pragmatic.

        • Perth girl

          Not if its Kearns or O’Neill!

        • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

          That comment was made a while ago. Since then Twiggy has been less and less complementary to RA.

      • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

        Will a JON/Kearns administration be worst that Clyne-Castle? We alrewdy lost everything so we can only gain from any change Maybe if ACT, VIC and QLD also get sick of the Sydney old boys we may be better off? In the worst case RA just ignore us as they do at the moment. We are on our own.

        • Who?

          JON might be ok, but I wouldn’t trust Kearns or their backers.
          As noted by JJ, Twiggy’s on record sounding positive about Castle, until we know what she’s like outside Clyne’s control, there’s no point in pushing her out. She may actually be ok. She’s done ok with the U18’s, the U20’s, she realized she couldn’t get rid of Cheika so installed Johnson as DoR in order to prepare for the future, and Twiggy likes her. These are all things outside Clyne’s focus, I’d rather see her have a shot than change for a team put forward by a bunch of self interested powerbrokers and a media organisation that’s part of the reason why the Force were axed (i.e. News/Fox).

        • From what I see of Phil Kearns watching from up here – yes. He may glad hand and smarm to all the right people but he doesn’t have a poxy clue about modern rugby.

          You can counter that by saying as an administrator you don’t need to and, if you one of a group or had a strong back ground in administering another sport I’d agree. But Kearns’ supposed USP is his understanding of the game. If you look at his old rival, Fitzpatrick commentates and has broadly kept up with the current laws. He’s not perfect but he’s not bad. He’s employed mostly to comment in the intervals when NZ teams are playing, but he commented during the RWC on some of the tier 2 teams as well and he clearly knows his stuff and has stayed up to date. Kearns… well he sounds like the stereotype of a hooker from my youth, where if you found a second brain-cell they’d move to be a prop!

          I’m sure that’s unfair. But is that really the impression you want the lead administrator of RA to give the rest of the world? We’ve just had a few years of getting that from the coach after all… can’t we have a period when we don’t have clown near the top?

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          No mate not an unfair comment at all. As they say “Harsh but true”

      • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

        I also think Castle she is unfairly tainted by Clyne’s – however he played a key role in her selection as CEO. I look forward to see the back of the Clyne-Castle-Cheika era. She never had clean air as Clyne continue to dominate the Board and decision making but I am sure that is exactly why Clyne picked her.

    • andrewM

      Whilst I don’t think Castle has done a hell of a lot for WA Rugby since coming on board, I’m happy to give her more time now that RWC, Cheika and Folou are now out of the picture. Hard to say about JON. He supported the Force’s inclusion into Super Rugby and in The Australian article he asked the question ‘Who’s talking to Twiggy??’ but if the chips continue to lay low and money remains tight, I wouldn’t be surprised if his interest towards anything west of the Anzac bridge cools.

      • While I agree with that, I’m not sure laying the blame for that at her feet is fair. The decision was taken without her and swinging it around in the time she’s been in post seems like a tall order, whoever you are. Especially with the rest of the people that actually made the choices that led to the decision still in post.

        Supergirl might have talked them around, but I’m not sure anyone human could…

      • Perth girl

        I don’t think Hannes is talking so much about castle as the others and the effect Kearns and /or O’Neill would have on WA. Most of us here realise Castle is only the mouthpiece of the RA board

        • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

          I agree that Kearns could be the worst CEO RA every had as he is clearly one of the NSW boys and his interest in Australia rugby starts and stops in Sydney. It may be what we need to tip the apple car over to allow RA to be restructures and form a more inclusive organisation in the future or split up.

        • Custard Taht

          Mate, we, including WA don’t want Kearns anywhere near power in RA. This guy was part of a pilot with Defence Housing which was meant to run 10 years. Instead it was wound up after 2 years and there is/was an AFP investigation into dodgy transactions.

  • formerflanker

    “These are demands more befitting an African dictator”

    In just the same way Clyne structured the board, continues to do so for the post-Clyne era, and selected Castle based on his connection with her in the banking industry.
    Change my mind.

    • Hugh Cavill

      I don’t disagree. But this isn’t about him.

      • Perth girl

        But it is Hugh, and Pulver and O’Neill. The problems in Australian Rugby started with these men and it will be more of the same if Kearns and/or O’Neill take over

  • Happyman

    Good Article Hugh

    I often wonder about the hate directed towards RC. Sometimes it feels like sexism and and the fact that she is a KIWi.

    I think she inherited a shit show and has put many structural things in place that will stand the code in good stead going forward.

    I feel like anything that she inherited has been put on her as her fault. Force included.

    News limited obviously have an agenda and given that they own half of the NRL and have stakes in more than one team there bias against rugby is evident in any of the reporting.

    I have a bad feeling on how this could end up if O’Neil gets involved again. If you wanted a former administrator as Chairman David Gallop would be my pick. Ran the NRL and Soccer very well.

  • Cameron Rivett

    I’m totally in agreement with you Hugh, everyone is scrambling to get in position to grab a slice of Castle’s corpse when in my view, she hasn’t really done much wrong. Our youth pathway is the best it’s ever been in the professional era and I credit a lot of that to her. It sounds to me like the “old boys” club from Sydney are still sore they lost the last election and are trying to “fix” things as quickly as possible.

    The poor result in the RWC is a good excuse for them which is a shame. I’m a bit sick of everything being hung on the altar of the RWC. In 2015 we got a respectable silver medal despite the fact that we should have been knocked out in the QFs. This time we actually got knocked out in the QFs by a team which went on to beat NZ and achieve silver themselves in circumstances where we could just as easily have been up against France instead.

    This is not a decline, this is more of the same, which is the last thing we need. This is also one of the reasons why I supported Raelene’s appointment, despite her being a Kiwi and having no rugby background. Hiring externally is the only way for any organisation to ensure that the same poor decision-making doesn’t continue.

    If Castle does get the boot, the last faction who should replace her is Kearns/O’Neill. The correct replacements are people I don’t even know the name of, but who are no doubt currently spread across the Antipodean sporting landscape doing good work elsewhere.

  • Who?

    Great article, Hugh. I was fascinated to read Wayne Smith’s take on the situation in the Weekend Australian. I’ve not read such a strong defence of Castle before, by anyone related to the game in Australia. In fact, your article is only the second article I’ve seen defending her at all, Smith’s being the first!
    .
    I’m not normally one to say that something is sexist, racist, misogynistic. But the abuse copped by Castle seems to be me at least to have tendencies towards that. We constantly see her appearance referenced – something we’ve not seen done much regarding her predecessors. That doesn’t mean all her use those epithets (The Pirate, the Vicar of Dibley, etc) are natural misogynists, or even those who originated the terms. But when they become constant and abusive in their use, it definitely feels that way.
    .
    I’ve felt as Smith describes in his article. That we’ve not seen Castle with clear air. She’s not had her coach. She’s had to deal with the toxic Clyne environment. We can feel that she was installed by that board and perhaps is a product of that (i.e. she’d have behaved no differently with different personnel surrounding her), but that’s speculation. We can’t be sure until we see her in clear air. What she’s done in appointing Johnson, in the U18’s and U20’s programs, those are positive things. What’s to say she won’t make similar good decisions when she’s got clear air?
    .
    Ultimately, I don’t think we’ve given her a fair go yet. People say we didn’t give Deans a fair go – that’s not accurate. He had 5.5 years. Castle’s at just under 2 years, and arguably the toughest 2 years to be an Australian Rugby administrator in the professional era. She hasn’t proven herself a winner yet, but neither has she proven herself a failure. We haven’t given her a fair go.

    • Custard Taht

      I think what will be make or break for Castle, will be the new broadcast deal. If things are as reported, she might find herself in a spot bother.

      • Who?

        That would be much closer to fair. What would be unfortunate for Castle would be if that were only the straw that broke the camel’s back. As her entire tenure would be coloured by all the drama around her, not created or controllable by her.
        .
        And even then, the broadcast deal? It was always going to be smaller. That was known when Pulver was in place. We all knew that the AFL and League deals are likely to shrink (the last ones were too big, too generous), the cricket one’s overblown, Rugby and FFA were likely to be the first to face the music of shrinking TV revenues. And that was without the Folau dramas, the debacle of the Cheika era, and (for many) not fully recognising the disaster that was the axing of the Force.
        .
        So if we were expecting Castle to retain a significant broadcast deal, perhaps even that benchmark’s unrealistic. It will be interesting to know – after it’s all said and done – what the RA Board is expecting of her for the broadcast deal, and how unrealistic that might be. Unrealistic, given that Fox held all the cards, and their departure gave all power to Optus to knock the price down. And Fox and News.com.au are one company, and they’re the source of much of the reporting… They may have just chosen to destroy the game to their own benefit. To get it cheap, or to help the NRL (which is a significant revenue source for them).

        • Custard Taht

          She is wedged between a rock and hard place with the broadcast deal, for sure.

          The knives are out for her, and fair or not, I have a feeling that the broadcast deal will be the straw.

          I think the person with most to lose from all these power games, is Rennie. The same sharks will be circling Rennie, and as Castles man, they will have unrealistic expectations in the first year.

          Unless we win the Bledisoe this year, we will hear calls from the same olds calling for Rennies head.

        • Who?

          I think you’re right. But if we sack Rennie for not winning in the first year, after giving Cheika and Deans so many attempts for so few wins, that’s even worse. Especially when there was no Aussie candidate who was really ready for the job.

        • Custard Taht

          Whether he would be sacked is a different thing, but the good ol boys will be squealing loud at the first opportunity.

          They will use Deans and Cheika to back up their squeals, by saying lets not make the same mistake a third time.

        • Brumby Runner

          How much would it cost to sack Rennie after one year? Surely, would bankrupt RA.

          It really shits me that there is already such talk and the man hasn’t even started work yet.

        • Custard Taht

          I am all in with Rennie, I think Castle got the best man for the job.

          Agreed, but the writing is already on the wall, the boys club have already been vocal against his appointment, and won’t cut him any slack.

          I am not sure the boys club worry about logic when it comes to a payout.

        • Twoilms

          We’ll be hearing calls for Rennie to be sacked when Pocock isnt played at 7 and Quade isnt parachuted straight into the starting 10 role.

        • Who?

          It’ll be interesting to see where Rennie sets up home. It’d be crazy if he doesn’t set up somewhere in Sydney. Which means, in three years’ time, odds are he’ll have spent a lot more time bumping into Waratahs players around his office, and so there may well be a slightly higher than expected number of Tahs in the jersey.
          .
          This isn’t a conspiracy theory – it’s happened before. With Deans. When you’re talking about someone with no ties to the provinces, then you can’t assign it to provincial bias. But it can be familiarity. There was that old chestnut years ago that, if you wanted to be picked in the Wallabies, you just needed to go paddleboarding in the right Sydney Harbour coves at the right time of day – you’d have a one on one audience with Robbie. Which was helpful.
          Nothing malicious in that, it’s just interesting how, when decisions are tight, those little influences can get a player the edge.
          .
          Rennie deserves at least 12 months to embed himself, and then we can start to see what he’s doing through his second year. Just like every other coach. I’m in no rush to make a call on him.

        • Perth girl

          The loser from the power games is Australian rugby

        • Damo

          Mate, I don’t think any of us would envy sitting in RC’s seat over the last 2 years. If she manages to pull off a good broadcast deal she can be the “Good Pirate”.
          Just thinking though – in spite of the plethora of corporate headkickers who inhabit the big media entities I’m not sure if it would be in anyone’s best interests to drive down the integrity of the game just to control the cost of broadcast rights. Do you want to have to promote and sell a shit sandwich to the punters?

        • Who?

          I think that, should Fox think they can’t get the rights for the price they want, they’d have no qualms about talking up the issues the game’s faced through the past few years in its other media arms. Best case, they get the game back, knowing that the only people reading those stories are us ‘rusted-ons’, so the damage is minor. But in the meantime, whilst they’re degrading the game, there’s extra pressure on those leading the rights deal to get something – anything – and save their own skins.
          Worst case scenario, they miss out, and the game is damaged, so they don’t lose as many viewers. And they try to convert those viewers to the properties they still hold (i.e. NRL).
          .
          The head of Foxtel is known for taking no prisoners (he was head of Fox Sports before). He just doesn’t care about the properties – he only cares about the viability of his company. It’s like the ‘Rugby Schools’ – they only play Rugby because they believe it’s a benefit to them. The second that changes, they’ll drop Rugby like nuclear waste. Regardless of the complaints of the Old Boys and families. I’ve seen it before – in 2011, when the Qld GPS schools added soccer and dropped Rugby back to Term 3 only, there was a major backlash amongst Old Boys and Parents. Do you think it made any difference….? Did enrolments drop? Or did my nearest GPS school’s headmaster still end up on over $500k pa, and continue building new structures/classrooms/facilities..? It was the latter…

    • Adrian

      Excellent Who?

  • Ian

    I’m sorry, I cannot agree with you.

    Raelene has done a passable job in many aspects, mostly in public relations which is very important, but that very strength is her biggest weakness, this last month she has both apologiesd to Folau (who had no hope of winning in court) and Apologised for Cheikas very reasonable reaction at the world cup to very poor refereeing. Next she will be apologising to the all blacks for giving them a flogging earlier this year!

    On Folau, it cannot be underestimated exactly how important that trial would have been for Australia as a whole, regardless of sporting affiliations, Australia needed that trial to conclude and declare Floau as wrong, once and for all, but now it is just gone (to the convenience of rugby yes, but to the detriment of Australia)

    She has not yet achieved anything in the sports administration world. Granted she has not had many massive failures (outside of Manly), but she hasn’t had any wins either.

    I think Kearns isn’t as boys club as many would have liked to think, the show he puts on, on TV should not be taken as a reflection of his professional expertise. The man is savvy, and very successful. He has a proved track record of developing investments and making business’ succesful. He cannot be any worse than what we are rolling the dice on at the moment.

    • Who?

      I wanted a Folau trial. I don’t think you’re right that it was a clear case. I don’t think that Australia can conclude Folau was right or wrong – that’s a matter of faith. The courts could’ve held that he wasn’t permitted to express his faith, but that would then have opened up a whole new circus. Folau may be wrong (an afterlife and its details is always something unknowable!), but reality is that the laws of the nation have no impact on an afterlife. As much as RA (or yourself) might like that. Personally, I’m fine with being told by others that I’m going to hell, or going to come back as a cockroach, or whatever. As long as I can hold my own position.
      .
      But a February trial, in the beginning of the Super season, with spiralling lawyer costs, loss of sponsorships… There’s millions of reasons why the RA Board authorized Castle to negotiate a settlement. And, according to Wayne Smith’s article, she got a far lower settlement cost than the Board authorized her to accept. It doesn’t specify the settlement figure, but the figure’s irrelevant. The key is that she acted in accordance with the Board’s direction, and further that she may have done better financially than they expected/authorized.
      .
      Apologizing for Cheika’s bad behaviour? Well, as someone with a terrible history of inappropriate behaviour, shouldn’t Cheika have changed his behaviour? Shouldn’t he have learned? This is a bloke with a history of WR breaches regarding approaching referees and a string of broken change rooms. This is a bloke who publicly (inside a private function, but publicly at that function) screamed at her because she – as his boss – had the temerity to make a request multiple times directly, and then go to his immediately superior (because Cheika wasn’t 2IC, he was under the DOR) to further the same request. His behaviour was childish at best, and fair play to Castle for recognising we don’t need a reputation with the officials as whingers. I can’t recall other nations behaving as poorly, even though the officiating was universally terrible. 4 of the first 5 penalties kicked by SA in the final were flat out wrong – bad calls. We didn’t hear a peep about it from Eddie or the RFU…
      .
      And if Kearns isn’t ‘boys club’, then why’s he being backed in by them? What’s he done that shows he can run a sport? Or to show he understands the game on the field, let alone off the field? When did he last connect to someone who wasn’t in some form of pathway (outside the Shute Shield)..?

      • Ian

        So you don’t like Cheika, fair enough, I’m not here to change rusted on opinion, just to offer a different view.

        Regarding Kearns, I have worked closely with some of his peers from his time at investec, and the accounts of his professionalisim and ability to transform business are pretty impressive.

        Why is he being backed by them? my assumptions in that respect would be because he understands the game on the field and off the field, having been an Australian captain and remiaining highly involved in Rugby in this country despite 100% not needing to. The guy doesn’t need the job, he wants the job, and that makes a big difference. He has the experience, and the right attitude.

        A pantomime hatred for NZ just adds fun to the equation. They are villains, lets embrace it.

        • Who?

          Fair call on not wanting to change my perspective on Cheika (he was the one who applied the salt and water!), I’m only pointing out that apologizing for his behaviour wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. He’d earned his poor reputation, it was time to get a clean start.
          .
          But, after the disaster that is Clyne, we want another banker..? Being able to transform a business, change culture, improve profits, they’re not necessarily worth anything in sports administration. It’s not like we can cut employees to profitability.
          .
          I don’t imagine for a second that Kearns understands the modern game on the field. Some of his claims about laws are just absurd. Some of them were even absurd under the laws he played under! Some front rowers are students of the game – certainly some from Randwick are (Eddie Jones, Ewen McKenzie). But not all of them are…
          .
          The assumption that being a good player makes one a good coach, a good administrator, or in fact good at anything beyond being a player is one that has been fully proven to be flawed logic for a long time now. It’s why we see former players parachuted into high level jobs – and consistently failing – on a regular basis.
          .
          I don’t see any reason to trust anyone who has ties to either the existing power structures or the old boys network. Neither have a proven track record of success in the past 15 years. Not JON, who was poor in his second tenure. Not Clyne. Not Kearns, who’s been in and around all these power structures the entire time, both from the broadcasting side and from the administrative side. The one advantage Castle has is that, whilst she’s been there for 2 years, she doesn’t appear to be an insider. I think the board are happy with her performance, but I don’t know that she wouldn’t sell them all out. After all, it was her efforts that dragged back a clear outsider (Scott Johnson) to try and rediscover the path to success.
          .
          If there were clear reasons to cull Castle, I’d be more receptive to listening to who valid replacement options might be. But I don’t believe we’ve actually seen her in clear air yet.

    • Neil Pocock

      Your certainly wrong about the case going Rugby Aus way! Precedent has been set on a couple of court cases at least….. one of them another commonwealth court case in England that was very very similiar and the guy won ALOT of money and he was no sports star worth millions….

      • Braveheart81

        The UK case wasn’t really related to the Folau case. The Folau case was an employment law case and whether an employer can terminate an employee’s contract as a result of actions damaging the employer’s reputation and ability to generate income.

        The UK case is much more aligned with freedom of speech as it related to a student studying at a public university and whether the university could expel the student based on his comments.

        • Brumby Runner

          Quite a distinction between the cases BH. Something a few of the Folau supporters seem to ignore is that Izzy is sacked, despite the mediated outcome. A win for Izzy would have been reinstatement of his contract(s) and return to both the Waratahs and Wallabies with the right to make unfettered comment of religious nature. He did not get any of these outcomes and no amount of money, large or small, will alter that fact.

        • Andrew Luscombe

          The UK student was studying a professional degree under a professional code of conduct. The university never tried to expel the student, but told him he couldn’t continue in his particular course because his conduct had breached the profession’s code of conduct and the course required work experience which they believed he could not carry out due to the breach. They offered to enrol him in another course. His online conduct was very similar to Izzy’s.

          The court ruled that a professional code of conduct can not ban religious statements of disapproval of same sex relationships, but it can require that they be expressed in forms as noninflammatory as practical. They also ruled that the general provisions related to “offensiveness” in the code of conduct did not ban such statements either, but also required that they be expressed in temperate form.

          The court did not rule on what was to happen to the student, but sent the matter back to a reformed university tribunal with guidance on the law because the whole process had been stuffed from the start.

          The judgement has a number of interesting bits for anyone interested:
          https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/ngole-v-sheffield-university-judgment.pdf

          The case was very much related to the Folau case.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      “Cheika’s very reasonable reaction at the world cup to very poor refereeing” What an absolute load of dribble. Cheika is the main reason that rugby here is in such a bad state and his totally over the top winging and crying every time something didn’t go his way was as pathetic as it was wrong. Look if it makes you happy blame the Kiwi CEO, blame me if you want I don’t care whatever makes you feel good about supporting those who are destroying rugby here

      • Dud Roodt

        “Cheika is the main reason that rugby here is in such a bad state” – the perilous state of Australian rugby has very little to do with a coach who definitely complained more than he should have.
        To blame him for our woes is to scapegoat everyone from top to bottom who came before and during his tenure who ruined the game.

        Starting with John O’Neil and the way he blew the millions in surplus we had post-2003 on buying league players and not bothering to expand the game. Those actions are the reason we are so short on cattle with which to select a top 1-2 team.

        The decisions to completely ignore grassroots rugby and allow AFL to come in and pick up initially the scraps, then the cream of the crop has far more consequence than a coach wearing his heart on his sleeve too often or not picking Scott Fardy who would have lead us to World Cup glory 6 times over if you believe what was written here.

        I don’t think Castle has done a bad job at all and think she should definitely be kept on.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Mate I agree with all that but it was Cheika’s team that got worse and worse results as time went by

    • Sven Galee

      I am glad there was no trial. Because there was nothing in Castle’s poor contract with him to prevent the tweets. Likely Folau would have won and then we’d be really screwed.

  • LBJ

    Thanks Hugh, I wasn’t decided, but you’ve made a really strong case for putting JON/ Kearns in place.
    – You’ve basically outlined precisely how they will bring in a very strong broadcast deal and empower grassroots rugby.

    I’m sold!

    (I’ve nothing but respect for RC, but I do think a change is warranted)

    • Perth girl

      It would be the death of rugby outside of NSW and Qld

      • LBJ

        I don’t understand – wasn’t it O’Neil with support from Sydney who put Western Force in Super Rugby?

        And it was Clyne who took them out? (I assure you there was no support in Sydney for that move).

        Yet you support Clyne over ONeil?’

        Please explain?

        • Who?

          I’m not sure that anyone’s suggesting supporting the already-resigning Clyne over JON. The question is more about shuffling out Castle – who Twiggy likes – for Kearns, who is pretty convincing at being a buffoon. It’s about an old boys network finding a way to hold a coup and return to ‘the old days’, when there’s currently some green shoots to be seen (U18’s, U20’s, DoR position, coaching appointment).
          And it’s about abuse that Castle’s copped which is arguably more vicious than that directed at Cheika, who had 5 years in his role and failed through most of it, whereas Castle’s not even 2 years into her role, and her results have been befouled by Clyne and Cheika. So it’s very arguable that not all of the vitriol directed at her is fairly targeted.

        • LBJ

          Any vitriol regarding Castle (or Clyne, Cheika Pulver, Link) is absolutely not warranted – in fact its disgraceful and unfit for any respectable Rugby person – these are all good rugby people doing their best.

          But that doesn’t mean any of them are not allowed to be the subject of legitimate critique against their performance.

          Here are my responses to your list:

          U18’s – Very limited input from the ARU, and disingenuous of them to claim ALL the credit.
          U20’s – Meaningful ARU involvement, but again – mostly their clubs. And again, ARU has claimed ALL the credit.
          DoR position – is it a win? Perhaps,I’m open to the possibility, it remains to be seen. But it is certainly an additional cost at HQ.
          Rennie – not sure why that is such a win. I accept that he is a good coach and a good bloke, but he has never been involved in an international setup of any description – and Scotland were the worst performing side at the RWC. We are taking a punt here – i would have preferred to take a punt on an Aussie.

          Here’s a subtle but, I think, extremely important cultural pointer of where the ARU is at under Castle and Clyne:

          The U18’s were wonderful. And while I sympathise with the need/ desire (given the current circumstances) to claim all credit for success they can find – they simply did not see that these young men should be celebrated as the representatives of the Rugby community at large.

          The right thing to do here – and the ONLY thing to do here, was to shower the rugby communities across the land with credit and gratitude. To thank and applaud all of the thousands of volunteers who are genuinely responsible for creating these fine young men who are so proud to represent us as a community and a nation.

          This was an opportunity to – in a meaningful way, acknowledge not just the boys in that team, but all of the players in their teams from U6 – up to this point. And all of the players that they played against. All of the parents that dragged their kids to training with those boys, that armed the BBQ, that sold raffle tickets. To consider not just the boys in the team in front of us, but the entire community that they represent.

          To say, in essence, ‘our community have done wonderful work- thankyou – ‘we just put on a few finishing touches’. Know that these boys are in good hands and we will do our best with them from here.’

          Instead, they have lauded themselves – endlessly and tastelessly (is that a word?).

        • Who?

          I agree vitriol’s useless, but I think it’s more understandable (if never justified) when there’s a clear record of problems. Castle has a clear record of being handed problems, but she doesn’t have a clear record of creating them (yet). Cheika… Clyne……..
          .
          U18’s, my understanding was that this was a change in structure to better support the team. It wasn’t about developing them – that’s obviously their schools and clubs. But our current U20’s clearly weren’t poor players, and they had poorer results than this group. Perhaps the improved support structures are the difference?
          .
          U20’s, again, RA doesn’t develop players. But they’re responsible for the support structures around the team. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe this group is significantly more naturally talented than they were at U18’s, or than last year’s team. Perhaps it really is about them getting the support they need?
          .
          DoR… I think it’s a win. It’s a role we’ve effectively had for a while, but they’ve faded into the background. We long had a high performance unit. Pat Howard ran it, before moving to CA. But through the Pulver era, it faded into the background. Appointing someone to that role and giving it prominence spreads the workload. It shouldn’t be the national coach’s place to have to ensure that the lower levels are providing players of the required standard. That IP is being effectively shared and communicated.
          .
          Rennie. I don’t want someone who’s not faced challenges. If I were NZ, I wouldn’t want Robertson. Because he’s coached three seasons for three titles. He hasn’t faced significant challenges. For perspective, after three seasons, Deans and Rennie both had two titles each, and went deep towards a third.
          You learn from facing challenges. Graham Henry said he learned more from losing in 01 than from winning in 05. The 07 RWC loss gave lessons that were rewarded with two RWC wins. Rennie’s faced challenges. He’s going to face more here. But he has a record of being able to bring in players to do a job, and for those players to perform. His record at both NPC and SR level is exemplary. Hopefully he’s learned from his time in Scotland, and I’m confident that he’ll be well supported internally (at least initially).
          I don’t see any Aussie with anything like the requisite experience as a coach to indicate they’re ready to step up to the next level. We’ve got one decent Super coach at present (McKellar), one emerging coach (Wessels), neither is ready to step up. Both have a lot to learn. Eddie’s tied to England. There’s no one else coaching at a high enough level to demonstrate they’ve got the required capacity. If you’ve got guys like Colin Cooper stepping down last year stating, “the role of Head Coach has moved so much in the last 6 years that it’s no longer enjoyable for me, it’s too technical, too off-field,” then I don’t think we can look at lower levels.
          .
          .
          If you’re after a congratulatory response from RA to the grassroots, then I think you need to look at the history of the ARU… When did they last do what you’re talking about?
          You may claim that RA’s self congratulatory behaviour is tasteless (yeah, it’s a word), but it’s nothing new. That doesn’t make it right, but to expect massive change of the sort you’re describing when they’re fighting for survival and trying to build some sort of positive narrative around the game and themselves in the press by any means possible is a little naïve.
          .
          Let’s be honest – if they were to spring to send reps around thanking all the clubs, it’d cost a fortune and give no publicity outside the game. If they trumpet that our U18’s and U20’s beat the Kiwis in the press, it might just make kids who otherwise haven’t heard much of Rugby consider having a game. And, ultimately, the best thanks a club could receive from RA would be to see them using any and all means available to grab publicity and funnel that publicity into recruitment for our clubs.
          .
          Oh, and if you want endless self promotion, look at Kearnsy and JON………

        • LBJ

          Your assessment of the performance is that they have been mediocre. I don’t find that acceptable.

          Its clear that Kearns is unpopular with the online groupthink – but i’m not really clear why to be honest.

          I don’t think I’ve heard him self promote? Confident, certainly, but not self promote i don’t think?

        • Who?

          You don’t find what to be acceptable – past mediocrity? Or RA’s history?
          .
          It’s hilarious that you always refer to anything on here as groupthink. There’s a diversity of views on here. I regularly strongly disagree with others on here. Always with respect. And this is only the second article I’ve seen in defence of Castle. The other one was from Wayne Smith in the Australian. From what I’m reading, the groupthink is all in favour of removing “The Pirate” or “The Vicar of Dibley”, or whatever other denigrating term they can find for Castle. Two articles against an avalanche is hardly groupthink!
          .
          Kearns is completely unproven in any sporting management role. He’s put up his hand for a role that’s not currently vacant. Why shouldn’t he be greeted with scepticism..? Especially when his regular contributions to the sport generally show a lack of any understanding, and massive bias.

        • Perth girl

          Please do not tell me that Clyne and Pulver do not warrant my vitriol if you did not attend the Senate enquiry hearings and heard the “other truths” ( I’m not allowed to say lies) that came out of their mouths!

        • LBJ

          Fair enough.
          But that only confuses me more as to why you think they represent the right go-forward group for the ARU.
          Clyne chose Castle to carry out his directives and is choosing his own replacement as Chair (or at least attempting to).
          It seems that JON is the only chance of standing in his way – and he comes with the potential of some financial backing.

        • Perth girl

          I don’t think they represent the right to forward group! The whole system of voting in Board members needs to change otherwise we will get more of the same if the Chair can pick his own replacement. The whole of the country is not represented fairly in the current system. If the likes of O’Neill and Kearns get in this will not change, QLD and NSW will hold all the power

        • LBJ

          I’m sorry I simply don’t see any basis for that perspective. The groups are at odds with each other – not in cahoots.
          O’Neil was the leader when super rugby expanded – since leaving, he has grown his influence significantly – this would be enormously helpful.
          Kearns has basically spent his entire life dedicated to rugby – my (limited) understanding is that he would love nothing more than to see it expand across the land.
          However neither of them like the NRC – that will be problematic for those few who have put their emotional support behind it. But it doesn’t mean there will not be a national competition.

      • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

        ACT and Victoria may join GRR… RA will split.

  • Twoilms

    Just when you thought Rugby couldnt be any more fucked.

    • Joe

      I think rugby can be more fucked. If you are running the team in the Formula One and u give your your driver a shitbox , it doesn’t matter if you have the best driver on the planet…u aren’t going to win. Super Rugby is a shitbox.Crowds are way down in Australia , NZ and South Africa. There is no tribalism.
      English Premier League has tribalism.
      NBA has tribalism
      NFL has tribalism.
      NRL has tribalism
      AFL has tribalism.
      Super Rugby does not have tribalism.
      I go for the Waratahs but they are not my tribe.Then they play against the Bulls in South Africa at 2am. Then we pay a star like Folau $1.4 million and he is overseas somewhere half the season in a different time zone.Wake up !! It’s time to turn the page.Super Rugby has had it’s time in the sun. Clyne going , Castle going and Cheika gone.Get Twiggy on board and we gotta get a Aussie/NZ Competition happening.No disrespect to Raelene Castle , but we have to clear the decks and start afresh.

      • Who?

        I’d argue that tribalism is part of the problem in Australian Rugby. There’s eternal complaint about provincial bias.
        In terms of crowd partisanship, I couldn’t care less about tribalism. Just give me something that’s good to watch. That doesn’t have to mean end to end rugby, it just means a real contest.
        .
        But if you think we can somehow fund a 15 team comp with 10 Aussie teams… And that it’s worth chasing AFL players along with Leaguies… It’s time to reconsider what’s realistic. People are complaining about the NRC being too hard and expensive with only 7 local teams.

        • paul

          You may not care about tribalism, but 99% of successful competitions in the world have it.

        • Who?

          Tribalism, though, can’t be manufactured. We have Tahs/Reds, which is the equivalent of the greatest rivalry in the country (NSW/Qld in SOO), yet people claim there’s no tribalism in it. Or that it’s diminished from the past.
          .
          Tribalism also can lead to the sorts of dramas we’ve seen in soccer stadia around the world, where fans need to be separated from each other with nigh on military grade barricades. Along with the constant rubbish we see between the administrators and fans about off field matters.
          .
          So, given it takes time to build tribalism, given there’s risks associated with it, I’m more interested in something that’s great to watch. And hope that it eventually develops to a gentle tribalism, but, honestly, if it’s just great to watch, that’s better than what we often see.

        • Joe

          If you look at rugby from top to bottom there is a very big hole between internationals rugby and nrc and Shute Shield. The large hole in the middle is Super Rugby.
          We already have long existing Sydney rivalries , and everyone in Sydney will immediately boo Queensland ,Victorian and Kiwi teams.

          What we all have to recognise is Super Rugby in NZ and South Africa is up shit creek as well.Crowds have voted with their feet/wallets everywhere .The waratahs are my team but they are not my tribe.Manly are my tribe.( I have never seen violence in the crowd at a Shute Shield rugby match either btw)

          The reason the top Football Clubs in Europe don’t break away is because crowds week in week out want to see Liverpool,Barcelona ,Manchester United, Bayern Munich ,Juventus play in their own comp.If you take it to the next level we don’t want to see the Wallabies play around the world in an international competition week in week out either.Internationals are the cherry on top and would lose their special status if played too often.

          The prototype for a successful competition is the AFL and NRL . We have 5 million rugby lovers across the ditch and a wealth of talent in NRC and Mitre 10 cup. A lot of Fijian , Samoan and Tongans currently choose League but may choose rugby if we get the right structure in place and our schoolboy stars may stay in Rugby too and success would flow on to the Wallabies as well.Rugby in Australia has always had the disadvantage of being cast as the upper class game . Get Twiggy on board and he may well find some friends/competitors/corporations on the East Coast who wish to invest in a club for a Australian/NZ competition.

        • Who?

          I understand what you’re saying. I don’t see a path to transition as you wish. The money’s not there. The best hope is that Super Rugby can continue to provide cash over the next five years, and that somehow over that period the NRC is grown to be able to step into the breach off the end of that next broadcast deal.
          .
          Ideally, Super Rugby could then continue, but in an abbreviated format. It’d be terrible not to see the Tahs, Reds, Brumbies, Rebels, and Force get a run. If it were a four week, round-robin home tournament, with a plate/cup/bowl international series to determine overall standings (and a tournament winner), we could get that done inside 2 months. Which could allow the NRC to go full home and away.
          .
          Sydney club teams may ‘immediately boo’ Qld teams, but given the Sydney clubs can’t be bothered to back the NRC, I wouldn’t be certain they’d be bothered to attend and boo Qld teams. Because they could already do that at NRC level.
          .
          It’s interesting that you’ve said “Internationals are the cherry on top and would lose their special status if played too often.” That may be true for soccer, but, for soccer, it’s also because the clubs own the game, and the clubs are owned by billionaires, not by the game or the fans. In Rugby, we play about 14-15 Tests each year, generally. That’s 50% more games than NRC, and almost as many as a full Grand Final Super Rugby campaign.
          .
          Something JON has right is that Australian Rugby succeeds when the Wallabies are strong. When the Wallabies are strong, player numbers increase, the provinces gain strength. But having a strong club scene doesn’t guarantee a strong national game or Wallabies team. The Shute Shield’s done well the last couple of years – it’s meant nothing to the Tahs and Wallabies. It hasn’t seen numbers improving at my club (7’s account for all the growth there). So, ultimately, I’m more concerned about making sure the Wallabies are getting publicity, playing and winning plenty of Tests, to ensure kids want to grow up and wear gold.
          .
          The AFL and NRL are NOT prototypes for a successful competition for Rugby. Because they are old competitions, that grew through amateurism, through the semi-pro era, into full professionalism. And that involved serious pain – South Melbourne, Fitzroy, Norths Bears, Newtown Jets, mergers, relocations, the Rabbitohs expulsion, etc… Rugby can’t do that – it’s too late. We need to be professional. We have a professional comp (Super Rugby). We can’t build a professional comp from existing amateur clubs overnight – there’s nowhere near the money for that, not for the first year, let alone beyond that. The model we need to follow is something closer to the A League, or the NBL. Which has much more in common with the NRC – which costs RA nothing – than with trying to turn amateur clubs run by volunteers into professional sporting organisations. Better to keep the organisations (amateur clubs, serving the community, and professional teams, who then should be connected to the community, but shouldn’t add cost/work to the community) separate.

        • Joe

          Interest , attendance and revenue at NBL, A league and NRC are meagre compared to NRL and AFL . Come winter time people love to have some sport to watch (live or tv) . I think people will support rugby if given the right format. I think League has been the great beneficiary of Super Rugby over the past 5 years.
          That old Adage about whether the opposition wants you to kick at goal or go for the try…..Ask League and AFL if they would like rugby to continue with super rugby or have an Australian/New Zealand competition they will say keep the super rugby. They will know rugby will just flounder along for another 4 years with super rugby.Re finance of new competition it would be way more attractive to broadcasters than super rugby.Get on the net and read about disenchantment in NZ and South Africa with Super Rugby. Rugby needs to move on from super rugby.
          No doubt there will be some pain , but that is the price that must be paid.That is why Raelene needs to go too.Put the broom through.

        • Who?

          So, Raelene needs to go because she’s doing something that could develop into a national comp that could supplant Super Rugby, for some guys who have a history of not investing in these areas? Let’s not forget, JON’s second term as CEO commenced with him axing the ARC, the predecessor of the NRC. Setting us back.
          And this is all backed by guys whose focus is the Shute Shield, which is an amateur comp. A group of clubs who shouldn’t be asked to carry the massive load of running a professional team, as they’re already flat to the boards creating great communities.
          .
          I’m not stressed about what League and AFL want. I’m more concerned about what’s achievable. I don’t know what you’ve seen over the past 20 years that indicates we’re capable of such massive change, and successfully implementing it. I’d love to see massive change at board level, which then led to manageable change at all other levels. But I don’t see value in immediate revolutionary change across all areas, or solely in the competitions area without being preceded by revolution in governance structures that is then given time to settle and bed in.
          .
          In terms of Raelene, she’s not been there to provide vision. She’s been there to implement the board’s strategy. As she has a new board and chair behind her, it’s quite plausible that she may actually have some great ideas for new directions, and an understanding of how to implement them. Given she’s been in the role almost 2 years, odds are she’s got a good idea of how things work. If JON were somehow to end up as Chair (I’d very much hope he didn’t immediately blow up our relationship with the NZRU again, and once again axe the NRC), he may actually find he could work quite well with another experienced sports administrator – perhaps even better than with a former player.
          .
          And a new Aus/NZ comp being more attractive than Super Rugby? How many broadcasters bid on the NRC..? How much does the Shute Shield receive? Or are they still paying to be broadcast..? I have no confidence that, in a time of shrinking broadcast rights values, any new competition in the fourth most popular football code in the country – which has been in a time of constant crisis for three years (Force axing, Folau, Cheika) – is going to have buckley’s of making any money in broadcast rights.

        • Joe

          You can’t seriously compare the NRC or Shute Shield with a new Australian / New Zealand competition.That is like comparing Shute Shield with Sub Districts….incomparable. An Australian NZ competition would have all Australian and NZ test and current super rugby players included .Kind oif like Super Rugby but with players and teams you can get to know over time that play in a friendly time zone week in week out.
          Not like Where’s Wally Super Rugby …..This week the Waratahs are in Bloemfontein…then Johannesburg kicking off at 2am …oh well I will probably miss those 2 games.Then they have a bye. And when they come back they are playing the Jaguares and the Sharks followed by a game against the Reds.That is one game out of 5 that seriously gets my attention.That is why Super Rugby is dead and worth bugger all .As opposed to Manly/Warringah playing Norths or Canterbury Crusaders or Brisbane or Sydney Uni or Melbourne or Eastwood….

          As for the structure below the top level I wouldnt see why anything would have to drastically change for the Shute Shield to continue on as is, and I would envisage the Shute Shield could get a boost from a better competition above them.

          We need to reset. If we are going to attract big business and serious investment to fund a new competition , would it help if the broom went through to sell it ? Unfortunately there has been too many disasters and Raelene should go with Cheika and Clyne so we can put this whole horrible period of rugby in Australia behind us.

        • Who?

          I don’t compare an amateur comp – Shute Shield – with an international provincial comp.
          I read you saying you want Manly/Warringah playing the Crusaders. I don’t care that you’re talking about a club, like the Sea Eagles (i.e. a professional organisation), rather than an amateur club like the Marlins and Rats. You’re still talking about a player pool that’s tiny taking on the greatest law abiding club in world Rugby (the only real current challenger being Saracens, having had a longer period of success than Leinster, but being known systematic cap cheats).
          .
          I get you want the broom through everything. But you’re demanding we throw out the baby with the bathwater, that we discard the good with the bad. Which leaves us in a position where we can’t fund anything. We don’t have the depth of players to instantly go to 10 teams against 5 Kiwi teams. That competition would see us decimated every week, and no one would watch it for that reason. The games would be terrible, no contest. Plus, there’s not the money to fund it. IF there was the money to fund it, why isn’t it already funding NRC, or Super Rugby? Why do you think there’s good money round to fund that when the QRU, NSWRU and RA are all well short of money? The head of the NSWRU came out this week and said if Castle can’t get an unrealistic figure in broadcast rights (unrealistic because the game’s been run as a disaster through the Clyne era, we offer less content), then they’re going bankrupt. Ignore the fact that the Tahs have been run as a shambles the last few years. As have the QRU for even longer. All losing money. Ignore that the NSWRU couldn’t be bothered to engage in the NRC. It’s all Raelene’s fault, apparently…..
          .
          Oh, and, I’ve got to point out… Super Rugby? There’s fewer SA games for Australian teams this year than at any point in the competition’s history – in 1996, we had three teams, SA had four, and they all played round robin. Now, we’ve got four, they have four, we play two games over there each year. But one of those might be in BA, which is a brekkie game on a Sunday – which is a pretty good outcome. Super Rugby’s not nearly as bad as made out, the biggest issue is the way the conference system was imposed (the concept wasn’t bad, but it should’ve been 6/6/6 teams, three equal conferences, not 5/5/4/4 – four unequal conferences). And we’ve won the title twice in the past decade – so we’re no worse in there now than we’ve been through any other decade period in the history of the comp (best case is 3 in 11 seasons, 2001 – 2011).

        • Joe

          As per my earlier post 3 days ago , the Australian /NZ competition I am suggesting would have salary cap with Aussies playing for NZ conferences and vice versa to spread the talent around.
          A lot of the overseas Aussie , Kiwis , Samoans , Tongans may be able to stay and play in this comp.

          I don’t know if there is the money to do it but if it is not put out there to the people , corporations or investors with the means to make it happen , how will we ever find out?
          Twiggy obviously wants to be involved with the game. There may be many more .Who knows. I read that Mike Cannon-Brookes went to the RWC too. I am suggesting that NZRU and Rugby Australia should be heading down this avenue sooner or later , so why not now?
          New Competition, New CEO (New Zealand have one too ) and new broadcast deal .

        • Human

          You do not care because you are a rugby nut. All the non-rugby nuts need tribalism or Baa Baa style exhibition rugby in order to get interested…SOO is an example.

  • Jason

    Can we just kick New South Wales out of Rugby Australia? They are the source of the vast majority of our problems with Rugby in Australia! /s But seriously /s.

    • Custard Taht

      Why stop at Rugby Australia?

    • LBJ

      I know riiiiiight….
      Like, just because Kearns has won two world cups, and had a successful business career – he thinks he has a right to an opinion…!
      Like, seriously…like…like…like…you know…riiiiight…

  • Crescent

    Thanks Hugh – sorry I missed this article yesterday – caught out by the summer indolence!

    In my view, RC finds herself in an unenviable position. Certain detractors almost certainly agitate against her for having the temerity to front up to a significant position and be a female – oh the outrage!

    The way I see it, RC, will at best, end her tenure damned with faint praise. No one want to acknowledge that RA is an unholy mess that took years to foul up to the current level. To expect the new CEO to unfoul the nest in just 2 years, while the chief architects of the present mess remain in power is a complete joke. Substitute in any name and the same timeline, and I doubt they would have been measurably more effective.

    Despite this, she has managed to get a new coaching panel, we have seen the development path show signs of life, she has ended the Folau saga at the least cost and most efficient manner (given parties bear their own costs) despite the posturing. Frankly, she has managed to achieve some significant steps.

    Has RC been perfect? No. But the vitriol directed her way feels out of proportion. We can always argue she could have done better, and no one is exempt from valid criticism. The failures around the NRC and rapproachment with WA Rugby stand out for me – but these aren’t sackable offences.

    What alternative vision has PK pitched? Let’s not forget that whilst JON landed the RWC hosting in 2003, he successfully alienated NZ Rugby in the process and had two bites at the cherry in terms of spending the windfall, which has largely been frittered away. Australian rugby has failed in adapting to the professional era, and reverting to our amateur roots will not halt the decline in the quality of play or address the loss of quality players to fully professional competitions overseas in their prime.

    RA faces a series of very serious challenges, and so far, have focused on the self interested in fighting over who controls the future of a game that is a rapidly shrinking fish in a significant international pond. I don’t have all the answers, but I am not putting my hand up to be CEO of RA. As far as I see it, RC has achieved more in two years than BP achieved in his entire tenure – but the critics remain silent on that matter.

    • Happyman

      Well said Crescent

      You do realise that balance has no place not the internet.

    • Who?

      Bill Pulver had two positives from his tenure. One was the NRC – considered at the time a thought bubble. It’s a success – not a universal success, but that’s down to the old boys networks not being brought in and therefore Sydney alienating itself from the competition.
      The other Pulver success was the investment in women’s/girls’ rugby, resulting in the 2016 7’s Gold.
      .
      Pulver absolutely had failures – the issues around the Force and RugbyWA are prime here. Along with re-signing Cheika. But I don’t think the NRC should be listed as a failure – that’s an NSWRU failure (along with, according to Wayne Smith, the Folau saga, as he was a Waratah – not a Wallaby – when he posted his controversial messages in April 18 and 19).
      .
      I think that you’re right – Castle’s having wins. Small wins, less visible wins, but I believe important structural wins. She doesn’t deserve to be sacked.

      • Crescent

        Fair cop – maybe I am being unduly harsh on Pulver – he also had to push against the same mess that Castle presently fights.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Well written Hugh, I’m watching this from the intermittent internet on a USA military computer in South Korea and just can’t quite believe what I’m reading. I just don’t understand why the other states just don’t band together and sort these idiots out. They are destroying rugby here in Australia and if they get there way it won’t be long before people will be looking back at when Australia were 6th in the world and wondering how they can get back up there.
    What a bunch of misogynistic self centered racist wankers. It was their support of the “old boys” that got that idiot Cheika selected as coach on a contract that RA couldn’t get out of and then supported him and his self centered ideals that took rugby here from 2 to 6 in the world rankings blaming everyone else in the process and undermining all the good that has been done. I am very worried for rugby here and the only good thing I can see is that it can’t fall much further before the only way is up.

    • Perth girl

      Only the Qld and NSW Unions have the numbers to get rid of the old boys and they have only their own interests at heart

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Yeah and that’s got to change. Maybe if QLD voted with everyone else they could do this

        • Perth girl

          But the old boys run the QLD and NSW Unions and they are not going to want things to change. It has to come from the grassroots of the game telling their unions that they are not going to put up with the same old shit!

    • Custard Taht

      RA will soon find themselves holding the keys to the kingdom, when NSW and QLD come knocking on the door for more money.

      If Castle has any sense, she will attach some strings to the money which enables RA to take some control away from NSW and QLD.

      RA put some strings on the money they gave the Force, and when it suited them pulled those strings.

  • LBJ

    The current trajectory will see the removal of another Super Rugby team. If you are supportive of losing another team – continue to support this administration.

    For the avoidance of doubt, that team is most likely to be the Brumbies.

    My opinion, for what it is worth (not much – i know) – is that we should have at least 5 super teams – even if it means they are paid less. And the only way to get back there, is to change direction of the administration.

    • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

      This has been such a success with axing the Force I think they could go for two teams instead of one.

  • Adrian

    I’d say a very accurate analysis Hugh, on all counts

  • Sven Galee

    Castle was CEO when the contract to sign Folau on again, after his first tweet, was done. She completely forgot to update that contract to specify Folau couldn’t do those tweets. No room for such incompetence. Castle is 100% to blame here. Glad to see her gone.

    • Who?

      So, the fact that the RUPA would’ve had to sign off on any extra clauses is irrelevant? That the CBA states that all additional clauses must be in favour of the player (i.e. something Folau wanted, not something RA wanted)..?
      Also, the fact that Cheika was basically the boss and wanted Folau was irrelevant? You can’t tell me that Cheika wasn’t instrumental in Folau seeing a 4 year contract past 30, and Hooper seeing a 5 year contract.

  • Joe

    Ffs can we all agree that we can have the best coach in the world but if you have a barely interested supporter base of the premier competition (super rugby) on pay tv only , and attract lesser quality players , you are pushing shit uphill with a teaspoon.
    Rugby can be the bigger than AFL and NRL in Australia. Axe (not so ) Super Rugby .Rugby Australia and NZRU should be teaming up to present us with Aussie/NZ Competition .5 Kiwi teams and 15 Australian teams.10 games per week in right time zone and can have pay tv plus free to air in Australia.

    Kiwis keep their 5 teams and we have Perth , Melbourne, ACT , Adelaide (or north Queensland )Brisbane x2 teams Newcastle , Parramatta , Penrith , Eastwood/Blacktown , Manly Warringah, Randwick/Easts , West Harbour/ Balmain/Canterbury, Sydney Uni, Southern District/Wollongong , North’s .
    Something along these lines is where rugby should end up imho so can we get on with it.
    Mr Forrest we were wrong and would love accept your $50 million shekles to admit and promote the Western Force.Get Twiggy on board and others will be jumping on board quick smart. All other clubs that do not have funds and private backing will have to seek it or alternative clubs may be admitted.Salary Cap to spread all the talent and Kiwis play for Australian clubs and vice versa but you have to play in this competition to be eligible to represent your country.
    Pool all the money we can , go and buy some afl and nrl players to add a bit of spice , and away we go.Each team has a women’s 7 a side squad that plays before men’s game.
    NZ need us as much as we need them.NZ rugby have conquered all in NZ . Their future growth is in Australia too. More money in this competition means less NZ and Australian players and coaches leaving for Europe in their prime like Charles Piutau and Sean McMahon , Jamie Joseph and Simon Cron.
    State of Origin round robin. NSW , qld ,ACT, WA and Victoria get pick of the rest.Winner plays the kiwi champions (they have their own State/province of Origin)
    Australian rugby will be stronger again, and Bledisloe cup will be huge again. I have sent to Rugby Australia and NZRU but have not had any meaningful reply.Please feel free to suggest improvements.Cheers Joe

    • Perth girl

      I think that Twiggy’s money is being used for other things now. It wasn’t good enough for him to pay 50 mill to RA to keep the Force in SR but apparently it’s ok for the Vic government to pay RA 5 mill to keep the Rebels in!

  • AGS

    I don’t personally think that RC’s performance has been a critical factor in what have been a couple of pretty dismal years of performances from the the Wallabies and I am not sure how much responsibility she should be shouldered with.

    The removal of the Force was a decision taken by the previous CEO and the current Chairman. I would rather we had continued with 5 teams but I don’t know how realistic that would have been given (a) our failing financial position (b) the requirement from SANZAAR for us to drop a team (and our limited bargaining power in that organisation). In any case, I think, if we had to cut a team then we cut the wrong one and we should have looked to retain the Force first and build on the junior development that had been undertaken there while also looking to develop the game in Victoria and potentially, in the shorter term, bring those players through ACT.

    Pulver and Clyne were also the CEO and Chairman when the ARU made a decision to publicly support the Yes vote in the leadup to the Same Sex Marriage referendum/survey. I did not agree with this decision as I thought it was not the ARU’s position to be overtly political and it could still have maintained its so-called value of inclusivity while not publicly affirming one side of a debate where there was a 40-60 split in voters. For me, that is when the issues with Folau started. He took them further and while I don’t agree with what RA did I do not pretend that it was an easy situation for them to handle and, I think it was something that Castle inherited, in part, as outlined above, due to what I see as a mistake of the previous CEO.

    When I originally heard Castle was being considered I thought it would be a good choice for Australian rugby, primarily because of her experience with Netball NZ. That direct experience in sport administration, setting structures in place, dealing with all stakeholders, coaching and player development, junior development and growing a game – these are the areas where I think the game needs to focus. Unfortunately I think there is far too much focus on running the Wallabies as a club, and the Super Rugby teams as feeder clubs and far too little focus on building the game from below – the sort of criticisms that Dick Marks and others have made. That, to me, should be where Rugby Australia does most of its work and I feel that, if it was growing the game then the performance of the Wallabies, the issues around using foreign coaches etc would sort themselves out, we would having greater playing depth, more skilful players and more and better coaches with great competition between them.

    I am not sure how much of Castle’s experience at Canterbury brings to rugby. It is a club administrator role as opposed to administering a whole sport and I think they are different. I am also not sure how much responsibility she has for the state the club was in when she left and in the several years following. An over demanding, high spending coach who seemed to run roughshod over the organisation, disgruntled grassroots members, some apparently poor contracting decisions….some of that is familiar but I don’t know how much was of her doing or in her control and how much came from the chairman and others at Canterbury.

    I do think there have been some good things that both RC and Cheika did. They brought some greater alignment between Super rugby franchises (more him then her), they made changes some of the structure of junior/schoolboy (and girl?) rugby (almost all her and no him). The appointment of Scott Johnson for me is still up in the air, I would prefer that his role was more about building player and coaching develop structures etc (a la Dick Marks) across the whole game rather than just another level of coach above the head coach for Club Wallaby.

    I do worry about her (or anybody’s) capacity to get a good TV deal. The environment is changing, people are consuming sports differently and while it would be great to get TV on FTA to spread its exposure I don’t know if it actually would spread the exposure that much anymore with so many getting their media in different ways these days. It is going to be tough and I think anything less than $50 – 60 M a year and she is probably going to get a kicking and I don’t know that anyone would be able to do much better – the financials in sports broadcasting appear to have changed and people in Australia have, at least temporarily, fallen out of love with our game and the Wallabies.

    Would JON do any better as Chairman. Based on his first term as CEO – yes, based on his second??? He was certainly key in getting FFA of to a great start but he had some assistance there. I don’t know but I think that he would need to have a different approach than he has had in the past. He inherited a pretty decent playing group in his first ARU CEO days too that was the benefit of the work of others in the previous 10 years. Is Phil Kearns the right person for the job? He has knowledge of the game and what its like to play at a high level but does that make someone a good sports administrator? I don’t think the best of the administrators in other sports have necessarily required that. He is a finance guy that played rugby – so is Cameron Clyne (though admittedly Kearn’s rugby was played at a much higher level).

    For me, I am just tired. While the RWC was great this year and I still love this game I am tired of the issues that we seem to constantly embroil ourselves in. I am personally at the stage where I don’t care how the Wallabies do – I hope they do well but I am not sure that the organisation really represents people like me and grassroots rugby anymore. Its become all about the big end. We have some papers that will only mention the game if there is (a) a crisis (b) there is some involvement from a former NRL player and on the opposing sides of the Fairfax Nine vs Murdoch Foxtel, we have a lot of journalists who appear more interested in the soap opera than the sport and both sides are guilty of that.

    Next year I am going to take a different approach. I will read and comment less and watch more (with the commentary down) and I am going to go to as many NRC, club and park games as I can and buy a sausage in a piece of bread and cheer some kids and buy a raffle ticket or some doubles.

    • Who?

      I agree with much of your post.
      .
      I think that, now Cheika’s gone, Johnson’s role will revert to more the type you’re hoping. His involvement with the Wallabies was, I think, an attempt to mitigate a disastrous situation where Castle wanted to sack Cheika last year but couldn’t find a suitable candidate. So in the interim, they grabbed someone to question him, and force him to provide the logic behind his actions. Which can help a person to change.
      .
      I’m not sure that RA’s place is in the grassroots, either. The ARU was established in 1945, but was effectively powerless. It gained some credibility in 1948 when it – rather than the NSWRU – was invited to join the IRB. But given it was established over the top of the existing unions, it’s never really had any place at grassroots level. The ARU (now RA) was always about ensuring that Rugby was successful at its own level, relying on all the other levels to provide the necessary ingredients for its own success.
      The most successful periods for the Wallabies have had some involvement with ARU engagement at lower levels, but have still been driven out of the lower levels doing their jobs well. Perhaps implementing tools provided by the ARU, but not always all regions doing that (i.e. it went well at Matraville and Randwick, but perhaps not as well elsewhere?).
      With that in mind, I thin JON’s position that the Wallabies drive the success of the game in the country is accurate. Weak Wallabies generally means poorer participation rates. Which means that RA’s key responsibility to the clubs is to ensure a strong Wallabies team.
      .
      I believe the only way to change that inverted pyramid model is to burn down and comprehensively rebuild the entire governance system in the country. If RA weren’t impossibly separated by layers of governance and bureaucracy from local clubs, then perhaps it’d be easier for them to be engaged, and it’d be easier for local clubs to receive support from them.

  • Mighty Mike

    Great balanced article Hugh. There seems to be alot of vested interest in the commentary regarding the broadcasting rights so I reckon it’ll be almost impossible to get the good oil on what’s actually happening unless you’re in the room with the negotiations. RC has shown massive courage under fire whilst gradually amassing a series of smaller wins away from the spotlight heres hoping for a successful outcome

  • The Jackal

    Foxtel can’t really afford to lose rugby despite all this posturing. Really is a small output for the type of subscribers it pulls in. A lot of big end of town paying the $150 plus for the platinum package, been there for 25 years. They lose rugby that base falls out. They only have to produce what two games max of Super Rugby a week. A-League needs to do five games / week. That’s where the pain really is production costs.

    At the same time you don’t want to screw around too much if you are RA. Wouldn’t be surprised if the NRL & AFL are trying to renegotiate now to get a piece of what is a dwindling broadcast right pie, they could jump the line and really screw the sport. Is there really another suitor out there for rugby. Pie in the Sky FTA deal aside is anyone really putting there hand up for it?

Rugby

Can't write, can't play. Tahs and Wallabies.

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