Oceania Rugby welcomes a new Independent Director and Women's Representative

Oceania Rugby is delighted to announce the appointment of two esteemed individuals to its Executive Committee. The inclusion of a new Independent Director and Women's Representative reflects Oceania Rugby's commitment to a strong, progressive leadership, with the organisation set to enter a transformational period for the region.

Joining the Executive Committee as the newly appointed Independent Director, Mr. Anthony Hearne, and Mrs. Taylah Johnson as Oceania’s new Women’s Representative. As a result of a very extensive engagement process involving applicants from across the Oceania region, both Anthony and Taylah were successful in securing their respective seats on the Oceania Rugby Executive Committee. A sub-committee was tasked with finalising the appointments, with President Mr. Richard Sapias stating, “The appointments of Anthony and Taylah are very exciting, and for Oceania Rugby, they mark an important pivot point in our future direction. The collective skills and expertise that Anthony and Taylah bring to the Oceania Rugby board will not only compliment the wealth of experience already present but also bring to the table new ideas, innovations, and competencies to which the region will be the greatest beneficiary.”

Anthony Hearne is the Managing Partner of the Commercial Advisory business, Mothership, after spending the last 2.5 years as the Chief Commercial Officer for Australian Professional Leagues (APL) which runs the A-League in Australia & New Zealand. Anthony possesses a wealth of experience in marketing, broadcast, digital, as well as commercial deal making. Equipped with an acute knowledge of the sports entertainment business through his work with Kayo Sports, the Executive Committee believes that Mr. Hearne’s diverse portfolio, and his personal connection to the region, make him an ideal candidate for growing Oceania’s regional and global footprint. Mr. Hearne is excited about the opportunities in the Oceania region, saying, “I am truly honoured to be joining the Board of Oceania Rugby. After growing up in the Pacific and then having the privilege of playing rugby all over the world I have a deep respect for both the sport and the region's cultures.  Oceania currently provides a very large percentage of the professional rugby players to the rugby world. I believe we can leverage that position harder to grow the game & strengthen engagement of all nations in Oceania.”

Joining Mr. Hearne on the board is the new Women’s Representative, Taylah Johnson, who will assume not only the role of shaping out the strategic direction of women’s rugby but will also represent the region’s interests as a director on the World Rugby Council. Mrs. Johnson is a recognised pioneer in women's rugby, and through her experience as a player, sports administrator, as well as commentator on Sky Sports New Zealand, she will play a pivotal role in advancing the women’s game across the region. The Executive Committee was moved by her passion and dedication to accelerating the development of women's rugby across the region, in particular the Pacific nations. Mrs. Johnson said, “I am incredibly humbled and honoured to be appointed as the Women’s Director on the Oceania Rugby Board and a representative to the World Rugby Council. I am motivated to elevate the hard work done around women’s rugby in our region by my predecessor and am eager to explore new and innovative ways to grow all facets of our great game. Having played international rugby for Samoa and successfully transitioning into governance and corporate positions, I am confident that my experience will complement the existing strategic thinking on the Oceania Rugby Board.”

The appointments of both Hearne and Johnson have highlighted Oceania Rugby’s intent to redirect its focus back to its core business of competitions and pathways. The board recognises the necessity for change and the importance of opening the executive table to new professionals. Equally, the board recognises the importance of stability with the reappointment of Mr. Sapias as Oceania Rugby President (as well as Dr. Keiren Keke as General Member), reaffirming the region’s support for consistency in leadership. The appointments of Hearne and Johnson offer a new balance of skills and experience on the executive board.

Importantly, a key departure from the Executive Committee is Mrs. Cathy Wong, who steps aside after representing Oceania Rugby as its Women’s Representative for the past seven years. Mrs. Wong has been the key catalyst for driving strong outcomes for the region through her strong advocacy for programs promoting gender equality and social cohesion and the development of local pathways for female athletes. Mr. Sapias today paid tribute to Mrs. Wong for her tireless work, saying, “Cathy’s contribution to the Oceania Rugby family has been immense, and we are forever indebted. Cathy departs the board after several outstanding years of service where she has realised the successful implementation of the Get into Rugby Plus program in Fiji, Samoa, Nauru, and Papua New Guinea; the delivery of the Oceania’s Women’s Championship, and the successful campaigns of the Fiji and Fijiana Drua in the Super Rugby.” Mr. Sapias went on to say, “Cathy has been instrumental in driving the growth of the women’s game in the Oceania region despite several challenging years. On behalf of the Oceania Rugby board, we sincerely thank Cathy for her strong leadership and selfless contribution to the region.”

The two new executive appointments will commence their roles with Oceania Rugby from January 2024.