Shelley Youman takes charge of Newcastle rugby

ON THE BALL: Shelley Youman at No.2 Sportsground yesterday. Picture: Marina NeilSHELLEY Youman was one of the pioneers of women’s football in Australia.

Now the former Matildas star is breaking new ground in sports administration.

Youman was announced yesterday as the new general manager of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union.

She replaces Fenton Coull, who retires in April after six years at the helm.

The 46-year-old mother of three is the union’s third full-time general manager.

While women have been directors on a number of boards, Youman is the first woman to head up a major sporting code in Newcastle.

She expects her appointment to ruffle feathers in the rugby community but is confident of earning the support and confidence of the stakeholders.

‘‘I think there might be some hesitation,’’ she said.

‘‘I won’t dwell on it. I’m there as the general manager. It doesn’t matter if I am a woman or a man.

‘‘I will take courage from other female CEOs. Raelene Castle is at [Canterbury] Bulldogs and there are female CEOs in football.


‘‘Once they see the effort that I am putting in and the work I am doing, it will change minds and they will just see me as a GM.’’

Youman, who has spent the past decade working for the Australian Sports Commission, beat applicants from throughout Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Dubai.

“Shelley was the outstanding candidate and was selected after an exhaustive process,’’ NHRU president Phil Payne said.

‘‘It was definitely raised through the interview process: how would clubs deal with a female general manager. The answer was: it’s irrelevant. Gender does not come into it. Shelley was the best applicant for the position.’’

Youman’s appointment comes 18 years after she was one of the first women offered a full-time football scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport.

She was 27 at the time and, with husband Mark and three young children, packed up and moved to Canberra.

The midfielder went on to earn 24 caps for the Matildas before a chronic knee injury ended her career before the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

She returned to Newcastle, gained a degree in social science and an advanced diploma in business management and is undertaking a masters degree.

‘‘I think rugby is a sleeping giant in Newcastle,’’ she said. ‘‘There is so much it can offer. I want to bring some new ideas to the sport.

‘‘With the sports commission I have worked closely with a lot of state sporting bodies.

‘‘I have seen a lot of issue that they have encountered and and a lot of things that have been done really well.

‘‘I’m hoping I can bring different aspects of different sports and showcase it. It is a big challenge, but we can all learn from each other.

‘‘I don’t care if it is rugby, soccer or basketball, there is always things to learn.’’

Youman’s sons Matt, 23, and Isaac, 19, have grown up playing rugby union, but that is the extent of her background in the sport.

‘‘I have no bias. That might have been one of the attractions for the board. I come in fresh with no preconceived ideas.

‘‘One of my first tasks will be to build relationships with the clubs and understand some of their issues.’’

Youman has maintained her association with football and is the head coach of the Central Coast Mariners women’s team.

Youman will start her new role on April 28.

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