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Hopefully Castle's selection will help bring league up to speed

Best person for the job: Raelene Castle is the first female chief executive of  the Bulldogs. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Best person for the job: Raelene Castle is the first female chief executive of the Bulldogs. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Our greatest hope for the appointment of Raelene Castle as Canterbury chief executive today should be that columns like this will soon seem hopelessly patronising and old fashioned.

Because this column is welcoming the Kiwi's appointment to the rugby league club based largely on the fact she is a woman. This column is pointing out that the Bulldogs have come a long way since the Coffs Harbour scandal of 2004, when sponsors didn't want a bar of the club, and women in particular were deserting them.

This column is recording the fact that Liz Dawson and Donna Burke were in charge of footy clubs 15 and 25 years ago respectively and that they were – believe it not – also women.

This column is the response to a climate that still exists in society, and in rugby league in particular, which should not.

The chief executive of the NRL, David Smith, issued a media release welcoming the netball administrator's appointment. He stressed that she was clearly the best person for the job, but then added: "It is also worth acknowledging the significance of a female chief executive and the message of opportunity that the appointment sends to women in our game.

"I've said before – there is a place for more women in decision-making roles in rugby league and we need to be even more inclusive in the years ahead . . ." Hopefully so inclusive that Smith will have to give up issuing a press release every time a woman is appointed to a position of influence.

We welcome you, Raelene. We are happy about your appointment. We hope your presence improves our culture.

But at the risk of being a wet blanket, the fact it is a big story we have a female footy chief executive even when we have had a female prime minister for three years is probably not a great comment on where rugby league is starting from.

Even during the recent women in league round, many well-intentioned media men and officials made comments about the appearance of those they were interviewing to recognise the role of females in the game.

"You're an attractive young lady, why would you play rugby league?" is not intended to be an insult or to be condescending but such comments are inappropriate given what that women in league round is trying to achieve.

The idea that all comments about skin colour, positive or negative, are now firmly off limits is only just seeping through to many in rugby league. Similarly, comments directed at women about appearance – even compliments – are most often inappropriate in the workplace because they objectify and even subjugate.

But rugby league has always been a male workplace and those who have worked in clubs all their lives have never had to deal with these issues. You can't use racial epithets and you can't tell your boss she's a good sort. The reason is that these comments perpetuate historic power imbalances – between white males and everyone else.

Having more Raelene Castles will bring the culture in rugby league clubs more in line with the rest of society in the second decade of the 21st century. That's why her job at the Bulldogs is good news.

Can you imagine a time in the distant future where we don't need to encourage, recruit and welcome women, non-Anglo Saxons and gays to parts of our society in which they are not currently involved in any great numbers?

Consider what they will think as they scroll through this piece of archived commentary – no doubt through a wireless brain implant. They'll regard the things I am commenting on as completely alien and me as a primitive bigot.

At least, I hope they do.

I’ve written about this elsewhere, but there’s some not-so-cool stuff happening in South Africa at the moment.

The South African government refuses to recognise rugby league as a separate sport from rugby union. Recently some regional sports bodies did affiliate with the SARL.

The South African Olympic Committee has responded by writing to all regional sports councils warning them not to recognise rugby league under any circumstances.

This is despite a bylaw which states any sport recognised by the Commonwealth Games Committee – as league is – is entitled to domestic recognition.

It’s the sort of discrimination that league has always faced when it tried to start (or restart – South Africa toured Australia in the ‘60s) in new territory.

If we had a real RLIF with an office and fulltime employees, they would be lobbying the IOC. But we don’t.

Discord will keep you up to date in events over the next few weeks.

Let’s go to the comments ...

And as I’ve been doing, I’ll go back over what you’ve said at the bottom of every story I’ve done for Fairfax over the past week, along with anything said on the versions of the yarns I’ve posted on

Lots of responses to last week’s Discord, which concerned itself with criticism of referees. Rusty offered the old chestnut: ‘‘Why have scrums?’’ It’s to create an attacking opportunity with six defenders out of play, that’s all.

There have been rules trialled in the All Stars game and in Super League to further encourage attacking play from scrums.

RTP said a game of football was not a democracy – but professional sports competitions operate within a democracy and are subject to its laws.

Jimbob said I shouldn’t be using terms like ‘‘WTF’’. I was going to say ‘‘WTF is wrong with WTF?’’ but some other readers got in first.

JimBob, I am free to use the entire canon of human communication here. If the subs don’t think it’s appropriate to have a whole column in Aramaic, they’ll translate it for me.

A number of people said that while a bit of a whinge doesn’t do much harm at the top level, it is imitated in juniors and makes it nearly impossible to recruit match officials. I take that point.

Phil, the idea of an offender in an incident of foul play staying off for as long as his victim has one flaw. If the best player on the field is the offender and the worst player on the field is the victim, wouldn’t you just sacrifice him for the rest of the game?

Ted said coaches should have to referee a few games rather than cop a fine for questioning a match official’s integrity! I’d like to see that!

Now let’s go to Monday’s Set Of Six, which was also well patronised.

The first few comments were about the footy at the weekend and don’t need any response from me but were great points.

Scott said I was out-of-touch with reality in calling for a ban on gambling advertising at games and gambling sponsorship of stadia. Yet the very next day, the government announced proposals to do just that. If rugby league cannot survive without income from gambling, with $1.025 billion in television rights income, it does not deserve to survive. 

The TV companies have already spent the money – bad luck if they now can’t pay for it with revenue from gambling companies. As for my objectivity, that was an opinion. Have a look at this site and thousands of other newspaper websites around the world and you’ll see thousands of opinions.

I still have faith in my ability to cover a news story regarding footy and gambling without my opinions clouding my professional objectivity. Maybe you don’t have the same faith in me. But considering that I don’t write day-to-day news anymore and am very unlikely to be asked to write such a story, at this stage of my career it’s a sacrifice I deem worth making. 

Yes, Baz, Souths being sponsored by a casino is not a good look at all considering their owner’s previous stand against poker machines.

Chieftan says journos are ‘‘TV aligned’’ but I have written in here many times about how cynical it is to have a game on delay just to insert ads in this day and age. But night football does rate and television does pay the bills.

My major concerns are the ways this unfairly impacts on some teams in preference to others. Melbourne have already played in every available timeslot.

In answer to CL’s question – yes, I was joking.

40 degree S says players should not be distracted by Origin selection when they play for their clubs. But Trent Robinson, Michael Maguire and Shane Flanagan all said at the weekend that there is a strong chance they are, and that the situation had to be rectified for that reason. Greg Bird said there was an expectation the players would be distracted and it made them try harder.

Luke Burt referenced doubts over whether players in that situation would ‘‘have a go’’.

Peter Peptide said fast food and beer was just as harmful as gambling. You’re right. I have no comeback to that.

Maddou pointed out ‘‘Jarryd Hayne’s mullet’’. Ha! Check out the picture that accompanied Set of Six!

Here’s the forum. 

13 comments so far

  • Hang on, just a minute. David Smith copped criticism from the dinosaurs because his background is in finance which, in my opinion, is more important than a league background. Now, the Berries have appointed not only a woman but one with a netball background. What will Ray Hadley say about this one? Spare me days! Could it be that league is moving into the 21st century Ray and the rest of the dinosaurs will soon, hopefully, be extinct.

    Long Xuyen
    Viet Nam
    Date and time
    May 29, 2013, 3:50PM
    • This is a step forward in Rugby league because it will bring new ideas to our game and take our great game in a new direction. Raelene has a background in our game and has taken netball in New Zealand to a different level.

      curl curl
      Date and time
      May 29, 2013, 10:10PM
      • With a mum who dragged me to netball games after my Saturday soccer and a wife and two daughters who play netball, netballers are pretty tough and I am sure that Renee can handle the manfest that is rugby league administration

        Date and time
        May 30, 2013, 7:37AM
    • This is the only sports article I have read online in years (deliberately that is, often sports is reported under misleading headlines in the main news section and I waste a click on it). I congratulate you on succinctly making your point; an important and insightful one.

      Date and time
      May 29, 2013, 11:49PM
      • Rugby League is a reflection of society, it is not an outlier. All professions have undergone or will undergo cultural change based on gender, race, creed, age and so forth. How soon change takes place is largely based on the interest levels these diversities have towards a specific profession rather than the make-up or culture of those within a profession. The fact is that diversity has found its way to the sport of Rugby League – again– rather than this sport needing to be kicked and dragged into the 21st century. Well done to Rugby Leagues past and present administrations for making this sport attractive enough for a wide-range of people to want to become involved in across all its levels. You are in fact, ahead of the sporting pack on this score and far from dragging your feet and chances are better than good that apathy towards diversity will set in to this sport faster than most other sports around here.

        A O
        Cloudy Bay
        Date and time
        May 30, 2013, 7:00AM
        • I think Steve Mascord, and most of the media, are totally missing the point here.

          Its not that the Doggies have appointed a woman to the role, it's that they have appointed an administrator proper to the role, and not a "club legend" or "football legend" to the position.

          Whilst the NRL (and the club industry as a whole) is mostly a boys club, the terrible way that clubs have appointed CEO's based on the a playing history is largely appalling. Just look at the nice guy from Wests Tigers (who ended up being stood down finally by the club yesterday), who is a Balmain legacy, but a terrible administrator and CEO.

          Well done to Canterbury, not only for breaking the "boys club" but more kudos to them for appointing a person with a pedigree in sporting administration.

          Date and time
          May 30, 2013, 8:03AM
          • Strange how you can be born in Wagga Wagga and still be called a Kiwi.
            I imagine high up on the list will be media training for the whole playing and coaching staff and scrapping the siege mentality the dogs had with the media in the past. A more...poised media relationship.

            Date and time
            May 30, 2013, 9:36AM
            • "Strange how you can be born in Wagga Wagga and still be called a Kiwi."

              Not strange at all. Her dad, a Kiwi league international from '61 to ''67, and later Kiwi selector from '99 to '01, was contracted to coach in Wagga Wagga in the late '60s during which time she was born. After his contract ended the family went home.

              Date and time
              May 30, 2013, 12:50PM
          • "this column is welcoming the Kiwi's appointment to the rugby league club based largely on the fact she is a woman"

            Pathetic. Truly pathetic.

            Lazy Jesus
            Date and time
            May 30, 2013, 10:20AM
            • My heavily edited point above about night football is a reference to the types of games we are seeing on night football and general weekend scheduling.

              Consistently there is no Sunday game in Sydney, and a look back and forth at the schedule confirms this. If there is just one Sydney Sunday blockbuster every week, the crowds will return and it will become a game for women, kids and families once more.

              Currently it is not !

              All quality Sydney games are played at night, which effectively rules out kids, mothers, sisters etc from attending. Therefore it's certainly not a family game anymore unlike the other codes.

              Sunday arvo seems reserved for non rating teams such as the Raiders, Titans and Knights who we don't even want to watch on TV.

              Two of the most watched sporting comps in the world, NFL & EPL,have the majority of their games played during daylight hours and have only partially succumbed to TV network pressure. Ours has totally sold out

              However there is simply no mention made of scheduling by journos and why, because they'll be biting the hand ..... Even radio journos !

              Don't expect allegiances to remain when kids and families can see AFL and A League during the day. What a great opportunity the NRL has had to kill off the hopelessly incompetent GWS

              When the last shot is fired in the battle for the West - don't expect General Gould to be the one left standing.

              My crusade will continue.

              Date and time
              May 30, 2013, 1:06PM

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