When Raelene Castle took over as CEO of Rugby Australia a little under a year ago she made history as the first women in charge of a major Australian football code. She was chosen for the role out of 200 hopefuls because of her “clear understanding of what needs to be done to strengthen and unite the code at all levels” according to Rugby Australia chairman Cameron Clyne.
But it didn’t hurt that Raelene had previously broken glass ceilings as the first female boss of an NRL club, and also spent six years across the pond as chief executive of our fierce rivals Netball New Zealand.
Despite these achievements, winning the Women in Sport Person of Sporting Influence, presented by rebel, is an honour that Raelene wants to share with the many sporting volunteers around Australia.
Rebel has been supporting women in sport for the past 3 years, their commitment this year alone to women in sport includes key partnerships across five different codes. Without their support sportswomen around Australia would not have the opportunities that they do today from a grassroots level to elite athletes.
“Influence comes in many shapes and sizes,” explains Raelene. “We’ve got athletes that are doing it all over the world consistently, of course, but we’ve also got thousands of volunteers. And at the end of the day, they’re the ones that actually keep the wheels turning and are the people that actually inspire me. They make lots of little children really happy through great experiences [in sport] every week. For me, those are the people that are really important.”
It’s these sporting experiences as children that Raelene believes are essential for our wellbeing as adults and as a society, and it’s one of the aspects of the industry she loves being a part of.
“Sport is incredibly powerful, both in its ability to influence its communities and the way it brings families together, as well as the healthy lifestyle it promotes,” explains Raelene. “Sport, no matter what level you play at, can give you inspiration to do your personal best.”
Born to a former New Zealand Kiwi Capitan, and a mother who represented New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games four times, sport played a major role in her own childhood.
“Sport wasn’t just something that we did, it was something that we ate, we drank it, we slept it, and it was part of every dinner conversation, every night,” laughs Raelene.
And it’s this lifelong love affair with sport that propelled Raelene to where she is today, via 15 years in the commercial sector. Being part of Australia’s obsession with sport inspires her on a daily basis.
“Sport has really put Australia on the world map in so many ways. We really do punch above our weight [with our results] and it continues to be a really important part of Australian society, ” explains Raelene.
One aspect of the Women in Sport Awards that Raelene says she particularly appreciates is that they represent a move by the general public to support female athletes.
“These awards are a fantastic celebration, and to see so many amazing women in the room from all spectrums of sport is amazingly inspirational for young female athletes,” says Realene. “And not just females. We’ve got all sports fans watching women’s sport, not just women watching women’s sport. And that’s a really important movement.”
Raelene says the key to this movement is increased support of women’s sports on a daily basis.
“We need to make sure that our female communities are given the opportunity to be put forward and promoted, and to be talked about positively,” says Raelene. “Essentially, [female athletes] need to be able to start the conversation and not be a second thought in it. We’ve been doing it in Olympic sports for a really long time, but now we have to do it [at club level]. We need to make sports fans think about all sport in a different way.”
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