IOL Sport writer Wynona Louw believes that times have changed, and it’s about damn time.
IOL Sport writer Wynona Louw believes that times have changed, and it’s about damn time.
A former national 15s, Sevens and Touch rugby player, as a referee, Aimee Barrett-Theron has broken several glass-ceilings in rugby this past year. Photo: Twitter
A former national 15s, Sevens and Touch rugby player, as a referee, Aimee Barrett-Theron has broken several glass-ceilings in rugby this past year. Photo: Twitter

CAPE TOWN – “She knows where the kitchen is”. “As long as she can do a man’s job”. “They’ll never run out of sandwiches!”

Those were some of the comments to a post announcing Raelene Castle as the new CEO of Rugby Australia on Tuesday. Remarks indicative of a stagnant mind set, I think. And I have to say, “What position did she play, hooker?” was my absolute favourite.

Now I could go on and on about these stupid comments, but I don’t see the point in entertaining those who clearly don’t have the intellectual capacity to deal with the fact that we’re way past the 1840s.

The appointment of Castle to the top job in Australian rugby was a great step. Not only did she become the first woman to hold the position, but she also became the first woman to take charge of one of the four main football codes in the country. But perhaps more importantly - she became the first female leader across all major national bodies in world rugby.

All of that is significant, very much so. But don’t forget this - she also became the person who now has the chance to rebuild Australian rugby after Bill Pulver failed to do so and bailed when he realised he couldn’t. Call it a political appointment if you wish. Point is, it was needed.

It was needed to show not only women in rugby, but everyone involved in the game that there’s no limit to what women can achieve in a so-called male sport. It was needed to show it’s a sport for all. And it was needed to shatter the glass ceiling that has been irremovable over rugby’s foundation for far too long.

Besides, aren’t we over prejudice yet?

Don’t get me wrong, Castle’s achievement is a massive one, but why do we even have to celebrate it? Why do we have to be so surprised? Women making strides in rugby shouldn’t be met with the same kind of shock that the world showed when Japan beat the Springboks in 2015. It shouldn’t be so rare. That shock and disbelief shouldn’t be there at all.

For too long have women had to face prejudice in this sport. For too long has misogyny ruled. And it’s not only prejudice against women that should be done with, it’s prejudice in all forms against all kinds of people.

It’s absolutely fantastic to see the Joy Nevilles, Aimee Barrett-Therons and the Alhambra Nievas’ out there. It was superb for the Black Ferns to be crowned the Team of the Year at the 2017 World Rugby awards and become the first women’s team to do so. And it’s great to see Nigel Owens, an openly gay man, dominate the refereeing world. And the best part is just that - he’s openly gay (remember his “I’m straighter than that one” response to a crooked line-out throw from Harlequins hooker Dave Ward?).

There has been enough prejudice in rugby. It’s outdated. And there are a lot of people who aren’t as close-minded, but unfortunately there are also those whose prehistoric and crooked views couldn’t be bent straight with a press brake.

But back to Castle.

I doubt things can go any worse in her tenure than it did in Pulver’s, but even if they do, Castle should be criticised as an individual, and not as the woman who couldn’t cut it in a man’s job.

I don’t care if Castle fails miserably as Pulver’s successor. I don’t care if things go really, really south, it did under Pulver too despite the fact that he was “blessed” with a certain anatomical body part that a lot of people seem to think is an absolute prerequisite if you want to have anything to do with rugby.
Times have changed, and it’s about damn time.

Castle’s skills and abilities might just do the trick and do Australian rugby some good, and let’s not forget about those “sandwiches” that some people are expecting her to dish out - they might help too.

The man she is replacing’s strategies sure didn’t.

Cape Times

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