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Papua New Guinea

NRL set for first female referee

Sharpe and Kasey Badger were each upgraded to full-time referee contracts in May and the former has now been appointed to oversee Thursday's game between Brisbane Broncos and Canterbury Bulldogs at the Suncorp Stadium, along with Ben Cummins.

"This is an historic moment for the game and I'm so happy for Belinda," Annesley was quoted as saying by the NRL's official website.

"She has worked extremely hard, served her apprenticeship, and earned her elevation on merit.

"While Belinda will be judged on her performances each week like any other referee, both Belinda and Kasey Badger are pioneers, who have forged a pathway for the many talented women who will follow in their footsteps."

Queenslander Sharpe, who has previously served as a touch judge in multiple NRL matches and four Tests during the 2017 World Cup, says she has never faced sexist sledging from the sidelines.

"If they can see that there is a pathway, there's an opportunity, they can make it to this level, then that's really good."

Belinda Sharpe chats with @SamSquiers ahead of officiating her first #NRL game on Thursday! https://t.co/M6ns8ET6Su #OurWay pic.twitter.com/BGOtS05Vq8

— Women's Rugby League (@WRugbyLeague) July 16, 2019

"I've never come across anything like that," she said. "At the end of the day they just want a referee who is capable of doing their job and it doesn't necessarily matter who they are, or whether they're male or female. They just want you to do a good job.

"That hasn't changed over the years in any grade I've been involved in. Once you demonstrate you're competent in that role, that's all that matters.

"We can't focus on anything externally and I won't be. My gender is irrelevant in that respect.

"The players are used to seeing me out there since I've been doing it for a few years now so they don't treat me any differently."

  Photo by NRL. Caption: Belinda Sharpe   

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