As the conch rang out followed by a beautiful Karanga the new Wellington Rugby League (WRL) CEO Andre Whittaker and his
family and supporters were welcomed into Pelorus Trust Sports House. The Mihi Whakatau, led by Te Runanganui o Te Āti
Awa (ki te Upoko o te Ika a Māui) chairman Kura Moeahu, received Andre into his important new community leadership role
marking a new era for Rugby League in Wellington.
200 people attended the Mihi Whakatau including members of Parliament Hon. Meka Whaitiri, Barbara Edmonds MP for Mana
and other local Parliamentarians and local government representatives. Other prominent attendees included Wellington
Rugby League Club Chairs, WRL President Star Olsen and Patron Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban.
Andre has had a lifelong involvement with Rugby League from playing at a high level to volunteering in his Club. At the
time of being appointed Andre was the Chair of Randwick Rugby League Club and a senior leader in UNICEF.
Andre, in his first week as CEO, has made a commitment to ensuring that WRL prioritises delivering good competitions,
clear communication, opportunities for our juniors and in particular for our girls and women.
“Change is often hard and can take time but I will be working closely with all those who have a role in League to make
sure WRL is supporting what they do and how they want our sport to look and be delivered.”
“Everyone of us has a role in making our communities a better place and this is what I want to do for our community.”
“We recognised as a Board that we needed to change what we were doing at WRL to do a better job for our communities”
says Leon Downes, Board Co-Chair.
“Covid put sports organisations in Wellington under real pressure, including Rugby League. It has forced us to look more
closely at how we deliver our sport and we needed to make the decision to do things differently. Now more than ever our
communities, not just the people who play rugby league, but everyone involved, needs us to do a good job and ensure
Rugby League is inclusive, fun and welcoming.”
“Andre is a community leader and we believe he will be able to lead our organisation and sport into a new and different
In addition it is really important to acknowledge the enormous contribution of our volunteers and our people at the
grassroots. Together with Andre and the WRL Board we will work hard to deliver the best outcomes for our players,
especially our children” said Mr Downes
The WRL Association was officially formed on 23 May 1912 and is steeped in history, some of New Zealand’s greatest
players have had their roots in Wellington. Andre’s brother John Whittaker, voted Wellington player of the century,
being one of them. More importantly Rugby League in Wellington has been the sport of choice for generations of our
families and community and as such has become a common meeting place and community hub for a long time.