Belinda Sharpe will become the NRL’s first female referee on Thursday when she officiates the clash between Brisbane Broncos and Canterbury Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium.
Sharpe’s appointment is a breakthrough for the NRL, which has not seen a woman in control of a game in its 111-year history.
Sharpe was promoted to the NRL’s full-time referee squad earlier this year along with fellow female referee Kasey Badger. She is a familiar face on the NRL sidelines, where she has been a touch judge since 2014.
In 2015, she started refereeing Queensland Cup matches and in 2017, she was a touch judge at four Tests during the World Cup.
The 31-year-old will take on her first top grade game on Thursday alongside one of the NRL’s most experienced referees, Ben Cummins.
Sharpe has been rising through the officiating ranks for a number of years. On the Today Show this morning, she noted it takes a long time for any refereeing official to break through to the top level and that she has worked hard to achieve it.
“In a sense, I’m fulfilling my dream…I’ve been referring for 12 or 13 years now, so it’s been a long time,” Sharpe told the Today Show. “It takes a long time to progress to this level for any official.”
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) July 15, 2019
Congratulations to Qlder Belinda Sharpe – who will become the first woman to referee an #NRL match at our home game against the Bulldogs on Thursday night:#Bronxnation #historyhttps://t.co/UslhE0rPOT pic.twitter.com/tQspM6etFi
— Brisbane Broncos (@brisbanebroncos) July 15, 2019
In June, Sharpe was a referee for the 2019 Women’s State of Origin at North Sydney Oval.
When asked about what her appointment to the NRL means for women in sport, Sharpe noted that recent strides in women’s sport have paved the way for more to follow.
“In recent years, we’ve made a lot of good moves in terms of women’s sport. With the introduction of the NRLW last year and breaking new ground in the AFLW and cricket. We’ve come a long way,” she said.
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