Former New Zealand cricket captain Ken Rutherford says he is looking forward to leading the Waikato Racing Club into a bright new future in the coming years.
Rutherford will take over from the retiring Tony Enting as general manager of the Te Rapa club from August 1, the beginning of the new racing season.
Rutherford, 47, who played 56 test matches for New Zealand, 18 as captain, has been based in South Africa since 2010, progressing from head of marketing and communications for racing broadcaster Tellytrack to becoming its chief executive last year.
Speaking from his Johannesburg home last night, Rutherford said he was looking forward to his new role.
''It's been something I've been working on for the last couple of months so to get the big call up at the end of the process was great,'' he said.
''We've been pretty keen to get back to New Zealand sometime this year. New Zealand is a reasonably small place and opportunities in my line of work aren't that frequent.
''When an opportunity as good as this came up, it was worth having a crack and hoping it all worked out, which it has.
''That I'm more away from the wagering environment and moving more into administration is something I'm really looking forward to.''
Rutherford said he saw plenty of potential for the Waikato Racing Club but he would first watch and learn before implementing strategies for growth.
''Taking to the chairman and the board, there's certainly a willingness to look forward to the next few years as a potential growth opportunity for the club,'' he said.
A former TAB head of sports betting and Trackside presenter, Rutherford's appointment was a coup for the Waikato Racing Club, chairman David Smith said yesterday.
''We're very pleased to get him,'' Smith said.
''To captain an international cricket side you have to be able to think strategically. He's shown he's not only a sound thinker but he's also got a real passion for racing and a great background in the industry, so we think he's just the bloke we're looking for. He's the ideal choice.
''He brings vast experience and commercial knowledge to the general manager's position. So together with his energy and passion for racing, it's a perfect fit.''
Rutherford could not be contacted yesterday, but in a statement released by the Waikato Racing Club, he said: ''I am incredibly proud and elated at my appointment as general manager of the Waikato Racing Club.
''The club is an integral part of the Waikato community and has established itself as a key component of the racing industry in New Zealand. I look forward to contributing to the growth and success of the club going forward.''
Rutherford said he would be returning to New Zealand in June or July with his wife Gail and daughters Caitlin, 13, and Holly, 9.
Rutherford, who also has two sons from his first marriage, current test opener Hamish, 24, and Tom, 21, will initially live in Cambridge, close to his brother Neil.
Raised in Dunedin and a regular through his teens at the Forbury Park trots, Rutherford also studied in Sydney, where he did a post-graduate certificate programme in strategic management, marketing and finance.
After retiring from test cricket, Rutherford played first-class cricket in South Africa and coached the Ireland national team for two years before returning home to work for the TAB.
He was a bookmaker and part-time Trackside presenter before he was appointed as head of sports betting in 2003. In 2006, he took up a similar role in Singapore.
- © Fairfax NZ News