Super League is looking for a new general manager after it was announced that Blake Solly is to return to Australia to take over as chief executive of South Sydney.
Solly, a one-time lawyer who is highly regarded in British rugby league circles, will begin his new role at the Rabbitohs on May 17.
“The decision to leave was extremely difficult but this is a fantastic opportunity to join one of the best clubs in rugby league,” said Solly, who began his career with the Rugby Football League seven years ago and became Super League general manager in 2014.
“South Sydney Rabbitohs are a powerhouse on and off the field, the most successful club in NRL history with a passionate fan base and extremely strong board.
“It will be tough to leave a great group of people at the RFL and Super League and I would like to thank the staff, clubs and fans for their support.
“The competition is in great shape, and in a strong position to grow quickly in the coming years. However, the time is right to return with my family to Australia after over 11 years in the United Kingdom.
“I would also like to express my appreciation to the RFL for allowing me to begin work at South Sydney in May.”
South Sydney chairman Nicholas Pappas said: “We’re delighted to be bringing someone of Blake’s calibre to our club as CEO.
“His experience in managing one of the code’s largest professional bodies internationally, coupled with his background in the legal profession, is a perfect mix for our club.
“Blake will fit well into our new structure here at South Sydney, managing the commercial and administrative arms of the business and working closely alongside our general manager of football, Shane Richardson, to ensure our club continues its rise 10 years after private investment.”
The RFL’s marketing director Mark Foster, who has been with the governing body for four years, will take on Solly’s role while the search is on for a successor.
One person already being linked with the job is Sally Bolton, who as general manager oversaw a highly successful Rugby League World Cup in 2013 and recently quit as managing director of 2017 London World Athletics Championships.
RFL chief executive Nigel Wood said: “Blake has been an excellent general manager for the First Utility Super League and we are all, of course, naturally disappointed that he is leaving to return to Australia.
“That said, we can fully understand the pull of leading one of the biggest clubs in rugby league and returning home to Sydney.
“Over the last couple of years Blake has contributed an incredible amount to the RFL and in ensuring that the First Utility Super League remains the premier sports league of the British summer. We wish him all the best in his new role.”