The National Rugby League (NRL) is celebrating a historic moment as Belinda Sharpe and Kasey Badger are set to become the first female referees to officiate under the single referee system in NRL history. Sharpe will referee the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles vs. Wests Tigers match at 4 Pines Park on Friday, while Badger will take charge of the Gold Coast Titans vs. Bulldogs match at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday. Both referees have previously officiated under the two-referee system, but this marks a significant milestone for female match officials in the NRL.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo congratulated Sharpe and Badger, recognising their dedication and discipline in reaching this momentous achievement. “Kasey and Belinda are professionals and have shown dedication and discipline in their development. This is an historic moment for them and for the game,” said Mr Abdo.
Belinda Sharpe‘s experience as a referee includes officiating eight matches under the two-referee system, as well as being a touch judge in 195 NRL games. She has also refereed women’s State of Origin matches from 2019 to 2023 and the NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership Grand Final in 2020 and 2021. Additionally, Sharpe served as a Rugby League World Cup official in 2017 and 2022, where she refereed the men’s World Cup match between England and Greece and the women’s World Cup Final between Australia and New Zealand.
Kasey Badger has worked as a touch judge in 161 NRL matches and has also served as a Bunker Review Official in 43 matches. She has refereed the NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership Grand Final in 2018, 2019, and 2022. Badger’s achievements also include officiating the men’s World Cup match between Tonga and Wales in 2022.
NRL Executive General Manager – Elite Football Graham Annesley commended Sharpe and Badger for their exceptional contributions to the sport. “Kasey and Belinda have both been exceptional officials, and it’s so pleasing that they have both continued to develop so well,” said Annesley. He also acknowledged the added pressure both referees faced as pioneers in their field but praised their progression through the refereeing pathways and their patience in waiting for this opportunity.
NRL General Manager Elite Officiating Jared Maxwell highlighted the dedication and continuous improvement exhibited by Sharpe and Badger. He emphasised the impact they have had on inspiring young girls to pursue refereeing as a career. “Their progression is a direct result of the strong pathways that we have. But what is also clear is the impact both Belinda and Kasey have had on the pathways themselves as they have progressed,” said Maxwell, adding that their presence on the field this weekend will undoubtedly inspire many more aspiring female referees.
The NRL‘s support and recognition of the achievements of Belinda Sharpe and Kasey Badger mark a significant step forward for gender equality in sport and serve as an inspiration to women and girls pursuing their dreams in rugby league.