Castle named Rugby Australia's first female chief

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Former New Zealand Netball chief executive Raelene Castle has been named as Rugby Australia's first female boss on Tuesday, becoming the first woman to take charge of one of the four main football codes in the country.

Castle, who left the Canterbury Bulldogs at the end of the National Rugby League season, pipped former Wallaby captain Phil Kearns for the role, according to local media.

"Raelene impressed the board with her vision for rugby and her clear understanding of what needs to be done to strengthen and unite the code at all levels," RA chairman Cameron Clyne said.

"In talking to Raelene, and those who have worked with her over her successful sports administration career, it is clear that she fosters environments of collaboration and high performance, always leading by example."

Castle replaces Bill Pulver, who said in August that he was stepping down as soon as a replacement could be found, and she faces a tough task trying to unify a sport that was riven by infighting and off-field controversy this year.

RA were engaged in legal battles with both the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels in a protracted decision making process over which team to cut from Super Rugby. The Perth-based Force were eventually dumped from the competition.

Pulver faced intense criticism from the rugby community over the furore and said when the decision was made he would step down rather than see out his contract, which expired next year.

"There is no doubt Australian rugby has a clear international and domestic offering for both male and female athletes that can be further developed and strengthened," Castle said.

"I am especially looking forward to getting out into the rugby communities across Australia and meeting the diverse range of people that make the game tick."

A former corporate marketing and communications executive in New Zealand, Castle led the country's national body for netball for six years before moving back to Australia to take over the Bulldogs in 2013.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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