NRL congratulates Belinda Sharpe on debut

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg has congratulated Belinda Sharpe on becoming the first female referee in the history of the NRL.

Sharpe has been appointed assist referee for the match between Brisbane Broncos and the Bulldogs, on Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium.

Greenberg said Sharpe’s appointment was a significant moment for the game.

"I know personally how hard Belinda has worked to get to this point and she thoroughly deserves her appointment," Greenberg said.

"The chance to become the first female referee in the NRL would have come with some pressure, but she has worked her way through our refereeing pathways, and patiently waited for the opportunity.

"This is an historic moment for the game and one which should be celebrated."

Sharpe will officiate on Thursday night with lead referee Ben Cummins, who has been on-field official in 352 NRL matches.

NRL Head of Football Elite Competitions Graham Annesley said Sharpe had worked extremely hard and deserved the opportunity.

"I know Belinda will be keen to use this opportunity as another stepping stone in her career," Mr Annesley said.

"Belinda has officiated extremely well in lower tier matches and also in the recent Women’s State of Origin. She has also been outstanding as a touch judge for several years.

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

"While Belinda will be judged on her performances just like any other referee, there is no doubt both Belinda and Kasey Badger are pioneers who have forged a pathway for the many talented women who will follow in their footsteps."

NRL General Manager Elite Officiating Bernard Sutton added: "Belinda has a very strong work ethic as well as dedication and commitment to the job which has helped bring her to this point. No-one works harder on self-improvement in the officiating team than Belinda."

"We have strong and established pathways into elite officiating and the recent emergence of both Todd Smith and Belinda into on-field officiating in the NRL highlights that."