First woman ref officiates rugby league game in PNG

THE SP PNG Hunters fans at the National Football Stadium witnessed history over the weekend with a woman officiating at the match against the Ipswich Jets.

The Queensland Intrust Super Cup knows the fanfare of Papua New Guinea and the potential to grow the game with the introduction of a woman referee in the competition’s woman in league round match that saw the home side take on the Jets.

Belinda Sleeman started playing touch football in school and proceeded to refereeing as well.

In a recent interview, Sleeman said she was happy with her involvement in rugby league.

“I didn’t see it as no other females did it so I don’t get involved. I saw it as something I wanted to try and I was encouraged to join the association and got involved. I didn’t see it as something unusual,” she said.

She featured alongside male referee Christopher Anderson in a two-referee system at the stadium, and performed well with the respect of the players.

Sleeman kept her calm in a game that was riddled with errors and she was precise in her calls and controlling the frustrations of the players.

She is not new to officiating at premier competitions as she runs the lines in the National Rugby League as well.

She made history in 2014 when she was the first female official at an NRL match when the West Tigers took on Cronulla Sharks.

She has said that her experience in the NRL might help to have women take part in officiating in the sport of rugby league.

“I never had the intention to become pioneer or anything but I hope that young women will recognise my role and be encouraged to join the profession,” Sleeman said.