New Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle will bring a much needed fresh pair of eyes and ears to an institution which sorely needs them.

The appointment of Castle, a New Zealander, is a significant one and it is significant too that the candidate she apparently beat out in the final run to the role was one Phil Kearns, the occasionally controversial television commentator and former Wallabies hooker.

New Zealand Rugby has often been accused of being a closed shop, an "old-boys' club" and while elements of those old amateur traits continue at the organisation, it has taken a huge shift into a more professional and enlightened mindset recently - witness its Respect and Responsibility Review and determination to make women's voices heard with more female representation on its boards.

But rugby in New Zealand has always been the game for all people – one which is easily accessible across all economic levels. That's not something that rugby in Australia can claim to be. It is often seen as a game for public schoolboys, the posh set, and hopefully for the game's sake Castle can break down those perceptions and make it more inclusive.


It's difficult to see how Kearns could have led that charge.

It won't be easy and she will find barriers along the way, but Castle is an ambitious and capable administrator who as a former chief executive of the Bulldogs in the NRL can already lay claim to being a groundbreaker.

Castle apparently had designs on being the boss of New Zealand Rugby and in truth that would probably have been an easier gig. New Zealand Rugby's high performance model is about is good as it can get. The All Blacks are the pinnacle (and successful and increasingly lucrative – the Wallabies are falling down the rankings and the ARU has financial issues), and everything flows down from them.

The five Super Rugby franchises are aligned, and the opposing coaches often meet and discuss developments in the game, while the now four Australian franchises are often bitterly divided and more so now than ever after the culling of the Western Force.

There will be pressure on the Melbourne Rebels to find some improvement fast as the competition alternates between expansion and restriction and the same goes for the Queensland Reds under new coach Brad Thorn.

The pressure on rugby in Australia from the other football codes is as high as it's ever been, and yet they have the player numbers to be far better than they are. Last year Australia had about 230,000 registered rugby players – New Zealand had just over 150,000.

The talent is there and those who love the game will hope that Castle help unlock it. From the outside looking in, she appears to be the best person for the job. The ARU have chosen wisely.