Female referees make World Cup history days apart

AFTER 68 years of waiting for the first female referee of a men’s World Cup match, there were two in the space of five days last week.

Kasey Badger made history as the first to do so when she took charge of Wales’ Group D match against Tonga in St Helens last Monday.

And fellow Australian Belinda Sharpe followed in her footsteps on Saturday when she was in the middle for England’s final Group A fixture against Greece in Sheffield.

The pair are among three female officials in the 28-strong squad for the men’s and women’s tournaments, alongside New Zealand’s Rochelle Tamarua, who was a touch judge in Badger’s match – the first time a World Cup match had two female officials.

Sharpe became the first woman to take charge of an NRL match in 2019, though has not done so again since the league scrapped the system of two referees the following year, while Badger has not controlled a match in the NRL.

“Kasey and I have been in the game for a fair while and I think people appreciate the level we are at now,” said Sharpe.

“I came over here looking forward to being involved in my second World Cup and whatever opportunities that would bring, so I am thrilled that that has resulted in me getting to referee a men’s game.”

Badger said: “When they announced I was going to be doing the game I was shocked.

“I came here wanting to work across both the men’s and women’s World Cups, and thinking I could be touch judging the men’s tournament, so to get to do this is something I am definitely really happy about.

“It is just good for the game, and it shows where our game is getting to, which is good to see.”

No female referee has yet taken charge of a match in the northern hemisphere’s professional leagues, with England international Tara Jones – who was the first to officiate in Super League when she served as in-goal judge in a match in 2018 – the only woman currently on the RFL’s list of Grade One match officials.