Pulver learns from trauma

Bill Pulver has spent much of this year being introduced as the new chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union. But the successful businessman who has worked in Australia, Japan, Britain and the United States for the past two decades is better known as the father of Madeleine Pulver, the victim of a collar bomb hoax in 2011.

Starting his role as John O'Neill's successor on February 4, Pulver has spent much of his time travelling, meeting powerbrokers from rugby outposts throughout the country and promoting his vision to reinvigorate a sport that has fallen behind its rival codes during the past decade as crowd attendances and television ratings dwindled alongside the declining performances of the Wallabies.

After a first week in the job that included the chaos created by the release of the Australian Crime Commission's report into sport, Pulver has released, drip-by-drip, elements of an agenda that includes a reintroduction of a third-tier competition in Australia, increased emphasis on sevens and women's rugby, and improved relations with the state bodies.

Perhaps surprisingly, Pulver said the trauma his family went through because of the extortion attempt by the now-jailed Paul Douglas Peters had reinforced a view of the crowds he would like to see at rugby matches.

''Until you raised it now, I haven't had a question about that incident since I joined the ARU,'' he said. ''If there was one message that I hope people went away with, it was that the family values that exist in our family are actually quite typical in what we want in the rugby environment.

''I want to see families attend rugby matches around Australia, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters joining all of us in the love of the game. So in some ways, I see some similarity from where the Pulver family has been seen and the focus that we want from families that we want in rugby union.''

After the intense media scrutiny on his family, Pulver said he knew he would not be fazed by taking on the high-profile position.

''What my family went through was a fascinating exercise to the extent that the first 48 hours after the incident, frankly, were terrifying in terms of the commentary in a public arena,'' Pulver said. ''Within 48 hours things suddenly corrected themselves and from that [point] onwards my sense of the media [was that they] were very fair and balanced in their reporting and ultimately fair and balanced in the way they treated me and my family, so I actually came away from that exercise with a reasonably favourable feeling towards the media.''

The rookie sports administrator could not describe what style he would adopt in his new role except to pledge a fresh enthusiasm for the game.

''I am just going to be me and what I am is someone who has an absolute raw passion for the game, a real willingness to engage with the community that collectively are committed to the game and have a real focus on getting the right plan for the future. I don't want the ARU to be a central organisation that tries to do all of that in isolation.

''I want verification from the rugby community that the plans we're putting in place are correct. I certainly want to collect feedback and make sure that feedback has been addressed in our planning.

''I think strategically the long-term health of rugby in Australia needs five very robust, financially sound Super franchises.

''Right now, those franchises are built on a fairly thin layer of a 35-man squad that is competing only modestly successfully within a Super Rugby championship. I want more depth and financial strength to all of those organisations going forward.''

This story Pulver learns from trauma first appeared on WA Today.