Head of football Graham Annesley has praised the performances of refereeing pioneers Kasey Badger and Belinda Sharpe, and says there’s no reason why they won’t be appointed in round one next year after they made successful debuts on the weekend.
The pair became the first women to be in charge of an NRL game under the single referee system, with Sharpe looking after the match at 4 Pines Park while Badger was in control of the contest on the Gold Coast.
Sharpe had refereed eight games under the two referee system, while both have controlled NRLW Grand Finals and men’s matches at last year’s World Cup.
“They performed to the level we knew they would,” Annesley said on Monday.
“They refereed the games competently and showed the benefit of their experience. We’re hopeful it’ll be the first of many more to come.
“The feedback that has come to me via their coaching staff is that they were both incredibly proud to have the appointments that they received and that they acknowledge the significance of those appointments.”
There were no controversies in either game, although some Tigers fans complained that Manly scored a try off a forward pass which had no bearing on the result.
Badger and Sharpe won’t be in charge of any NRL finals matches this weekend, with the pair likely to referee in the NRLW, but Annesley says they will be in the mix when the appointments are handed down for the opening round of the 2024 season.
“They’ve got to do what every other referee has to do, and that’s perform,” he said when asked if it would become normal to see them referee games.
“They’re in a position now where they’ve broken through and every referee – male or female – at some point has to make that breakthrough and get that first game.
“You never really know until a referee does take that jump from the second tier to the top tier just how they’ll cope with it.
“All the indicators that we got watching the games on the weekend that both Kasey and Belinda were involved in was that they’ve got what it takes to referee at that level.
“The only thing we’re interested in is not gender – we’re worried about performances.
“If Kasey or Belinda or any female that might follow them performs to the level that we require, then there’s no reason why they can’t become permanent NRL referees, and they’ll be judged the same as everyone else.”
Annesley hasn’t spoken directly with either referee but was told that their main feedback was just how much faster the NRL is compared with other competitions.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, whenever a referee takes that step from refereeing at the State Cup level and moving into the NRL, the first thing that you notice is that huge leap in speed,” he said.
“The feedback I got from them which is pretty valid and common is the speed in which you have to make your decisions.
“The game moves at such a faster pace that you’re making decisions constantly in a much more compressed timeframe.
“You don’t tend to have those slightly longer breaks in play between plays where you can think a bit more and take more time with your responses.
“At the NRL level, everything just happens in an instant. If you don’t react quickly then everything has moved on and you’ve missed the opportunity.”
Originally published as ‘They’ll be judged the same as everyone else’: Badger and Sharpe in line to referee more NRL games in 2024