Former Rugby Australia boss Castle named Sport NZ chief

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WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Former Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle has been appointed as the new head of Sport New Zealand, the national sports body said on Wednesday.

Castle will succeed former Olympian Peter Miskimmin when he officially steps down on Dec. 11 after he spent 12 years in the role with the organisation, which is the national body for grassroots sport and works with High Performance Sport NZ.

"Raelene brings tremendous breadth and depth of experience as a CEO in sports administration and is a proven people and organisational leader," Sport NZ chairman Bill Moran said in a statement on Wednesday.

Castle resigned from Rugby Australia in April after nearly three years at the helm, saying she believed the board no longer wanted her in the role amid a financial crisis compounded by the novel coronavirus shutdown.

Prior to joining RA she had been the chief executive at National Rugby League club Canterbury Bulldogs and led Netball New Zealand from 2007-13.

Miskimmin said in August he would be stepping down from the role and Castle quickly emerged as a potential successor and said her first challenge would be to increase participation and help sports organisations through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, the government announced a NZ$265 million 'Sports Recovery Package' for the next four years to help sports organisations cope with the impact of the pandemic. The first instalment of NZ$80 million was released in July.

"With the Sport Recovery Package there is a once in a lifetime opportunity to solidify the sector and reshape it to be more robust and deliver more participation opportunities," Castle said. "I'm looking forward to being part of that work."

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ken Ferris)