“Woman to ref Hunters”.
Belinda Sleeman was front page news in Papua New Guinea last season (2017) when she was appointed with Chris Anderson to referee the Round 22 Intrust Super Cup game at Port Moresby Stadium between the PNG Hunters and Ipswich Jets.
The Queensland Referees High Performance Unit member made history in that game as the first female match official to be involved in a game of that level in front of rugby league fans in PNG.
Her involvement in the Women in League match was seen as a big step in helping to show women and girls in PNG who have aspirations to become referees in the future that anything is possible.
In great news – this game, in turn with some fantastic work at the grassroots level – has paid dividends with a number of girls signing up to be part of the match officials pathway in PNG.
Sleeman saw this growth first hand when she recently visited the country as part of the officiating squad at the Prime Minister’s XIII matches this past October.
The Australian-based match officials attended a Beyond the Goal Posts clinic, which is part of a program run by NRL Development staff on the ground in PNG.
The referee education program is aimed at girls and boys in upper primary and high school and will provide participants (Junior Referee) with NRL Level 1 accreditation to officiate in PNGRFL Mini Mod Competition.
The course is made up of 10 units and upon completion, participants will receive accreditation equivalent to Australian NRL Level 1 accreditation.
While attending the clinic, Sleeman encouraged the girls to remain committed to their training, stating that as challenging as officiating may be, it was a rewarding pursuit as it helps build character and allows those who do it to learn a lot about themselves.
She also helped educated the students on the laws of the game and led participants through signal and whistle techniques before taking part in a Q and A session.
After the clinic, the young referees were each given a jersey and were excited to continue working hard to become accredited match officials.
About BEYOND THE GOAL POSTS (in Papua New Guinea)
Beyond the Goalposts Program (BGP) is run in partnership with PNG Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) and is part of NRL’s capacity building and a development pathway for junior PNGRFL referees who will be officiating in Modified Rugby League Games.
The course is run by Australian NRL Referee Education Providers. The level 1 referee course will teach fundamentals of referee’s involvement in the modified rugby league game. Participants will gain skills and knowledge needed to be fair and effective on the field of play.