This week, Belinda Sleeman broke a new record as the first female named to officiate World Cup matches.
Sleeman is currently a media manager for Queensland Touch, as well as dedicating time and effort to being a rugby league game official. After being a sideline official for 58 NRL games, and being a regular lead referee in the Queensland Cup, Sleeman was named in a match officials squad of 26 people.
While this is a great step for women officials, it’s also a positive sign for the future. For players, the world cup is the height of a career, with a very high game and performance standard. The same stands with referees, who are expected to have control and be always right.
Refereeing such a high-pressure game is a positive sign that we may eventually see Sleeman be the main or pocket referee in NRL matches over the coming seasons. If she can successfully be a touch judge in the world cup, she can prove herself as an NRL referee.
Being of such high-profile matches, it also draws a lot of attention to her and all female officials that our game has, which is still increasing. With more attention, comes more knowledge, and hopefully more women hoping to participate.
It seems like such a minute step, but in reality, it’s so significant. Sleeman has building the path for female match officials for three years now, and officiating a world cup is a new height to this.
It’s only up from here for what is hopefully a whole new generation of female match officials.