NHRU: Coull leaves with head high

FENTON Coull remembers people suggesting he would be bored when he was appointed general manager of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union.
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Coull spent 16 years at Tennis Australia where, among a host of roles, he was Davis Cup team manager in the golden era of Pat Rafter, Lleyton Hewitt and the Woodies.

‘‘They thought going from a national/international role that I would be bored,’’ Coull said. ‘‘It has been anything but boring.

‘‘It doesn’t matter what level of sport you are at, everyone wants the best, everyone wants answers and everyone wants improvement.’’

Coull blew full-time yesterday after almost six years at the NHRU.

During his tenure the union improved its financial position, hosted the region’s first Test match, moved into new headquarters at the redeveloped No.2 Sportsground and won five straight country championship titles.

‘‘When you look back, there have been a number of achievements, but you always want more,’’ Coull said.

‘‘I am fairly pleased with the financial shape the union is in. Sponsorship is way up.’’

‘‘It was good to have the first full Test in Newcastle and then the British Lions.

‘‘We only missed out on a high-level game one year.

‘‘Moving into No.2 Sportsground, I was a small part of that project.

‘‘I guess one of the aims I had was to try and get the NHRU closer to the clubs.

‘‘It is a very difficult task. The governing body is always looked at suspiciously.

‘‘I might have ticked some of the boxes with some of the clubs, but I feel I haven’t ticked that box completely.’’

Coull admitted the bitter battle between Easts and the NHRU, which resulted in the club being axed from premier rugby then reinstated after mediation ordered by the Supreme Court, was the biggest and most testing issue.

‘‘It was my first day on the job,’’ he said.

‘‘I went to the board meeting that night and premier rugby went from 11 teams to 10. I didn’t realise the magnitude of the decision at the time.

‘‘I thought we will just get on with it, but there were a few hurdles.’’

The increased vitriol and animosity between clubs recently has also caused Coull concern, but overall he has enjoyed the role.

‘‘I have been fortunate to work with and meet the great majority of local rugby people, who are supportive of and hard working for our local game,’’ he said.

After helping new general manager Shelley Youman ease into the role this week, Coull is looking forward to playing more lawn bowls and travelling with wife Judy.

‘‘I nearly went to a Davis Cup tie this year,’’ Coull said.

‘‘I want to go back and be a spectator.’’

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