NRL Criticized for Being Late with Female Referee Appointments

Ben H / 1 September 2023

NRL female referees Kasey Badger and Belinda Sharpe are set to make history this weekend and become the first female referees to be in charge of a game since the single-referee system was instituted.

However, some analysts, such as commentator Andrew Voss, think that the NRL landmark moment should have come earlier. They argue that appointing female referees for dead rubber matches is doing too little too late, as the matches Sharpe and Badger will be in charge of have no bearing on the top 8.

Belinda Sharpe will take charge of Friday night’s game where Manly take on the West Tigers, while Badger will referee the match between the Titans and the Bulldogs two days later.

Fans Want to See Female Officials in Games “That Matter”

Despite many fans applauding NRL’s decision and commending Sharpe and Badger for the work they have been doing, commentator Voss has mixed feelings about the move.

Voss told SEN radio that the fact that the two referees have been given “games that don’t have finals consequences” was basically saying they were “good enough” to be in charge of top-flight games, but “not really good enough to be given the responsibility” the rest of their colleagues were taking on.

Voss stopped short of saying their appointment was “a token call” and wondered if the NRL gave the two female referees the games so that they could tick that box and say, “Right, it’s done.”

Many NRL fans on social media channels echoed what Voss was saying and responded to NRL’s post on the X social platform by asking the league to give female referees “that matter.”

Paving the Way for Women Referees

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo lauded the achievements of the two officials and said that both referees were professionals who had shown “dedication and discipline” and congratulated them for their “historic moment.”

NRL General Manager – Elite Officiating Jared Maxwell complimented the two officials and said they were paving the way for other female referees in the sport. The referees’ boss was happy that “Kasey and Belinda” would inspire “many young girls to take up refereeing.”

Sharpe already made history in 2019 when she became the first woman to be in charge of an NRL match. However, she was partnered with another ref, as that game was played with the two-referee system still in place.

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Ben H
Ben Harris is the Communications Manager for KRUZEY, an AFL expert, and writer. He has one daughter that he loves dearly and four children's books... [Read full bio]

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