OUR greatest hope for the appointment of Raelene Castle as Canterbury chief executive today should be that columns like this will one day 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 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 CEO 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 rap 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 anymore 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 sixties) 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.
OK it’s that time again – comments.