Kasey Badger & Belinda Sleeman Await Their Chance With Whistle

While AFL umpire Eleni Glouftsis is into her third week of first grade, NRL sideline officials Kasey Badger and Belinda Sleeman are waiting in the wings for their call-up.

 

The two have been regulars on the touchlines at NRL games for the past 18 months. They weekly take control of under-20s matches and NSW and Queensland Cup games as central referees.

Badger, wife of NRL referee Gavin Badger, was a touch judge in last night’s Parramatta-Warriors game at ANZ Stadium. Sleeman was the first woman on the sidelines for a Test match when she ­officiated in the Fiji-Tonga international a month ago. Badger was a touch judge at the final City-Country game.

Their apprenticeship is nearing its end but they will not cross the white line until next season at the earliest.

“Touch judging has always been a vehicle for development into being an NRL referee,” said Tony Archer, the NRL’s general manager of officiating and himself a former NRL referee.

“They have both refereed in NSW Cup and Queensland Cup, as well as the Holden Cup, and they continue to develop. When they are ready to ­officiate in first grade, they will be selected.’’

He said the pair were in a 20-strong emerging referees squad.

“They will be selected on their merits and that is their desire as much as it is mine.”

Sleeman said she and Badger were patient women: “It is my desire to referee in the NRL, but I haven’t set a timeline.

“If it happens I want it to be because of what I’ve done as an official, not because I’m a female official.”

Sleeman grew up in rugby league-mad Rockhampton.

“I used to go to games with my dad. When I was 18, a friend of the family suggested I become a referee. I was playing touch football and I also refereed touch football, so I thought, ‘why not?’,” she said.

The NRL began a program last year to find more female officials. Already three have refereed in NSW junior reps games: Karra-Lee Nolan from Shellharbour, Bianca Santi from Parramatta and Kassandra McDonald, from Newcastle. In 2015, Nolan became the first female referee to handle NSW Country Rugby League first grade matches.

The NRL’s program to find more is called Women In League Officiating Program. Last year 20 referees attended a six-week program, learning skills, fitness and wellbeing.

They now officiate in junior rep games and city and bush games.

Former referees boss Robert Finch looks after the league’s ­talent identification programs.

“We are complementing the WILOP by initiating pilot programs with Touch Football ­Australia with the objective of ­encouraging female referees to transition between both sports,” Finch said.

Sleeman said being an official was a great way to become more involved in the sport she already had a passion for.

“The skills you learn and the experiences you have can be beneficial to you in so many other ­facets of your life,” she told The Weekend Australian. “I’ve had some great opportunities — been involved in some big games in big stadiums.

While AFL umpire Eleni Glouftsis is into her third week of first grade, NRL sideline officials Kasey Badger and Belinda Sleeman are waiting in the wings for their call-up.

The two have been regulars on the touchlines at NRL games for the past 18 months. They weekly take control of under-20s matches and NSW and Queensland Cup games as central referees.

Badger, wife of NRL referee Gavin Badger, was a touch judge in last night’s Parramatta-Warriors game at ANZ Stadium. Sleeman was the first woman on the sidelines for a Test match when she ­officiated in the Fiji-Tonga international a month ago. Badger was a touch judge at the final City-Country game.

Their apprenticeship is nearing its end but they will not cross the white line until next season at the earliest.

“Touch judging has always been a vehicle for development into being an NRL referee,” said Tony Archer, the NRL’s general manager of officiating and himself a former NRL referee.

“They have both refereed in NSW Cup and Queensland Cup, as well as the Holden Cup, and they continue to develop. When they are ready to ­officiate in first grade, they will be selected.’’

He said the pair were in a 20-strong emerging referees squad.

“They will be selected on their merits and that is their desire as much as it is mine.”

Sleeman said she and Badger were patient women: “It is my desire to referee in the NRL, but I haven’t set a timeline.

“If it happens I want it to be because of what I’ve done as an official, not because I’m a female official.”

Sleeman grew up in rugby league-mad Rockhampton.

“I used to go to games with my dad. When I was 18, a friend of the family suggested I become a referee. I was playing touch football and I also refereed touch football, so I thought, ‘why not?’,” she said.

The NRL began a program last year to find more female officials. Already three have refereed in NSW junior reps games: Karra-Lee Nolan from Shellharbour, Bianca Santi from Parramatta and Kassandra McDonald, from Newcastle. In 2015, Nolan became the first female referee to handle NSW Country Rugby League first grade matches.

The NRL’s program to find more is called Women In League Officiating Program. Last year 20 referees attended a six-week program, learning skills, fitness and wellbeing.

They now officiate in junior rep games and city and bush games.

Former referees boss Robert Finch looks after the league’s ­talent identification programs.

“We are complementing the WILOP by initiating pilot programs with Touch Football ­Australia with the objective of ­encouraging female referees to transition between both sports,” Finch said.

Sleeman said being an official was a great way to become more involved in the sport she already had a passion for.

“The skills you learn and the experiences you have can be beneficial to you in so many other ­facets of your life,” she told The Weekend Australian. “I’ve had some great opportunities — been involved in some big games in big stadiums.

 

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