Groundbreaking week for female officials on both sides of the world

Australian Belinda Sharpe will become the first woman to referee a NRL game when she debuts in Thursday’s match between Brisbane and Canterbury but on the other side of the world 17-year-old Caitlin Beevers will make her own piece of history.

Beevers, who has been playing Rugby League since she was six, will be touch judge tonight as England Youth take on their counterparts from France at the KCOM Stadium in Hull. 

Beevers, who became the first female referee to officiate at Wembley in 2018 when she took charge of the Year 7 Champions School Final prior to the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final, says that the progress of her Australian counterpart is an inspiration for all female players and officials. 

The England Womens international commented, “It is massive for Belinda to get this opportunity. She has gone through all the ranks over there and was the first female touch judge in the NRL and now gets the chance to referee a game. I can’t imagine how she must be feeling. It is a massive promotion for womens rugby as well. Young girls seeing her refereeing will realise they can do it too and I think that is just what we need for the game, it is a win win situation because the more we see women involved in the game, the more women get involved in the sport.”

As well as her officiating, Beevers has been starring for the Leeds Rhinos Womens team this season and is set to feature in her second Challenge Cup Final next week against Castleford Tigers at Bolton. The flyer scored a crucial length of the field interception to book Leeds’ place in the final against St Helens in the semi final. The two sides will meet again this Sunday in the Women’s Super League at Emerald Headingley as a curtain raiser to the Betfred Super League clash between the Rhinos and Hull FC. She believes having someone with knowledge of the laws of the game on their team has helped the Rhinos and playing the game has helped her officiating. She added, “The fact I have a better knowledge than most players of the rules has definitely helped us develop as a team. In training and in games, I can tell people what to do and that helps to stop silly errors because I know what referees are looking for. I think it would be a good idea for more players to go on referee courses, in both the mens and womens games, and learn that side of the game. Teams are always looking for those marginal gains and knowing all those little rules could be key. 

Caitlin Beevers in action for Leeds Rhinos Women against York

“Myself and Tara Jones support each other over here. Tara has been an in-goal judge in Super League and I have been a touch judge in League One. I am touch judge for the England Youth v France game, which will be my first representative game as an official, which is a great honour. 

“I would love one day to referee a Super League game and become a full-time referee. I know I can’t play forever but I couldn’t imagine not being involved.  Officiating is a great way to stay involved in the sport and I would be over the moon to get that chance.  There are a lot of young referees coming through the pathway, men and women, and we support each other. What a lot of people probably don’t realise is that we have a lot of training sessions and meetings together; it is a big squad itself. It is a really rewarding environment to be part of because those friendships help with your officiating. When you can put your trust in other people to ask questions and develop your understanding that makes you a better referee,” added Beevers.

As to whether teams treat her differently because she is female, Beevers is clear about what the most important factor is; respect.

She added, “I hope they just see the referee’s jersey. It is a tough role, that is why I took up the challenge and I would like to think I can handle it. I don’t treat the game any differently, I don’t treat the players any differently, regardless of whether it is men or women playing, and I expect the same in return. Respect is the key.”

If you are interested in finding out how you can become a referee visit the RFL website by clicking here