The NRL has announced the league’s commitment to bring more gender equality to the game with the introduction of female referees.
While 2017 has seen more women commentating and reporting on the game, the industry said Australia will see female referees on the field from round 26 this year.
However, referees boss Tony Archer failed to give them the cut to referee the main games this weekend. The decision is set to shake up the ‘boys-only’ stigma the NRL holds.
Renowned NRL referee Bill Harrigan supported the decision, encouraging a fair go for ladies who met the standard for professional NRL refereeing.
“I’m deadset against tokenism and I’d never appoint a referee just because she’s a woman. But the whole squad knows that she has earnt it,” the legend told the Daily Telegraph.
While female referees Belinda Sleeman and Kasey Badger have demonstrated their ability this season refereeing the Holden Cup and NRL touch games, these women are ready to set foot in the rugby league finals round.
The upcoming rounds not only mark the finals football for the year, but also a stepping-stone for female referees. Sleeman and Badger have been selected as touch judges for the opening week of the finals.
Badger will be waving the flag in Friday night’s showdown between the Roosters and Broncos at Allianz Stadium. Sleeman will man the line in Saturdays clash for a sudden-death final between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Penrith Panthers.
Archer recognises the significant contribution ladies like Sleeman and Badger are making to the game and the quality of refereeing.
“They are not part of the women’s program – they are simply part of our overall emerging referees squad,” Archer said.
With the referee’s big boss in high spirits, the finals rounds will have these women in the spotlight to not only welcome the NRL finals, but a bench mark in the NRL referee history.