Raelene Castle is taking on a job many New Zealanders might not. She is the new chief executive of Rugby Australia, which sounds almost as treacherous as coaching the Wallabies. But New Zealanders will wish her well and find immense pride in the personality we profile today.

She is a woman moving confidently and naturally in the most masculine of worlds. Having successfully run the Bulldogs rugby league club in Sydney, she is stepping across to the national administration of rugby union.

She makes no bones about the fact that when Australia face the All Blacks, "there's absolutely no doubt at all I'll be cheering for the Wallabies".

She is a professional as well as a warm, down-to-earth Kiwi. As a woman in charge of young men at the Bulldogs, she does not talk about role models when they misbehave in public, she talks about contracts.


"When you get paid a large amount of money you represent an organisation and that means you have to make certain choices and behave in certain ways."

When it comes to respect for women, sexuality and race, she says: "I've had a number of very, very difficult conversations. I think the difference is, at the end of those conversations you can stand up and give the player a hug in a motherly way."

Management of professional sport is a sophisticated business these days. Castle cut her teeth in ordinary business working for NZ Telecom, the BNZ and Fuji Xerox. But sport was in her genes.

Her father played league for Auckland and later coached a club side, her mother represented New Zealand at bowls, winning Commonwealth games medals and a world championship.

In her youth Raelene played netball, tennis, lawn bowls, basketball, volleyball and touch. She went into sports administration first with Netball New Zealand, in the years when the ANZ Championship was launched giving good netballers a chance to make a living from the game.

But her appointment to the Bulldogs in 2013 was the breakthrough, the first female boss of an NRL club. Women, she says, stopped her in Sydney streets to say: "We are so proud of you."

So say all of us. She straddles not only the gender divide but the Tasman and the rugby codes. While heading Rugby Australia she is also co-conducting a review of the Kiwis' disappointing performance in the recent Rugby League World Cup.

She is amazing.