Raelene Castle
Sports administrator

Pioneering sports administrator and the first female boss of an NRL club

Few women have found firmer footing on the rungs of the male-dominated sports administration ladder than Raelene Castle.

The 47-year-old has been chief executive at Netball New Zealand (2007-13), the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (2013-17) and now runs Rugby Australia.

It could be argued sport has always run in Castle's blood. Her father Bruce was a former Kiwis rugby league captain, while her mother Marlene was a top lawn bowler who earned three Commonwealth Games medals.

Castle excelled as a young sportswoman, playing netball, tennis and lawn bowls to representative level. She thought she might have a chance at becoming a Silver Fern but, as she told the Herald in 2009: "I just didn't grow tall enough."

Castle established a commercial background, working for big businesses like Telecom, Southern Cross and BNZ, before venturing into the sporting realm.

Netball underwent a significant period of growth under her leadership with the introduction of the ANZ Championship, which saw players paid salaries for the first time, and the ability for fans to watch the sport on Sky Television.

In 2013, Castle joined the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs as CEO and in doing so became the first female club boss in the National Rugby League since it formed in 1998. A vote of confidence came when rival clubs chose Castle to be one of four CEOs representing their interests in salary cap deliberations.

Today, she is faced with turning around Australian rugby fortunes and, by association, the Wallabies. Regardless of their fate, she has already cemented her place in sporting history as a true trailblazer.