You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Beattie's accolade a testament to hard work and dedication

The late Richie Johnston will have a massive smile on his face when looking down at Sunshine Coast Stadium for the Women's State of Origin.

The former QRL referees’ development manager and long term mentor of officials on the Sunshine Coast was a staunch advocate for females in sport and with two of his former protégés in Belinda Sharpe (neé Sleeman) and Kailey Beattie forming two thirds of an all-female officiating team in charge of the showpiece event, Johnston wouldn't be any more proud watching the match from above.

The well-deserved appointment tops off a big week for 23-year-old Beattie, who was also awarded the Johnston-Sharpe female officiating scholarship for her dedication to continue in one of her biggest supporter's footsteps to be a better person.

"It means a lot to me. Richie was such a big part of my early career. He was there for my first ever touch line and he was there for my first game," Beattie said.

"To win something that’s regarded so highly by the family is really special, and to combine it with Belinda and the female pathways, it’s really special to achieve something like that."

The Sunshine Coast official said Richie's larger than life character had a big impact on all facets of her life, keeping her level-headed as she progressed up the ranks.

Beattie with Richie Johnston.
Beattie with Richie Johnston.

"He gave me a few sprays in his time. I remember he was there for my first 13s game and he hyped it up all week that I was doing this game and when I came off, he gave me a hug and only said… ‘oh, it was alright’.

"One night he just sprayed me for being a touch judge and not putting my flag up, but he was all about the small things and the particular details and that was really passed down to me... just doing all the small things right. To make sure my preparation is right and you do all the little things right in the game.

"You only got better [from his openness and honesty] and he did it in a particular way that you took it away differently from it just being negative. You could always take away [what he said] and improve on it.

"He had a touch that was like no other in the way he communicated his feedback.

"Also, just in general how he treated people... like he knew everything about me and he knew everything about my family and that wasn’t just me, that was everyone.

"I really took that away. I like to make sure I know everyone’s name and know a bit about them because it makes you feel really special and the only person in the world and I think that’s such an important quality that he had.

One of Johnston's key philosophies was to not only continue improving on the field, but also off it as well; and a key to the female officiating scholarship is completing tertiary study to which Beattie is undertaking.

"I’m in my last year [of a Bachelor of Physiotherapy], so I’ll hopefully have a job in about six months, but it’s been going really well," Beattie said.

"I’ve been on placement this year which has allowed me into the real world which is really cool and I’ve been able to apply everything I’ve learned. I’ve always been very studious, so to get out to the workbook has been pretty nice because I got a bit sick of it by the end.

"I think I started the ambition [to be a physiotherapist] because I wanted to help people be able to get about their daily life and not have it hinder them.

"I think my first inspiration was through rugby league and to be part of a team.

"That’s not really my motivation anymore but the fact rugby league has driven so many aspects of my career really highlights how big it is I think."

Despite officiating a number of BHP Premiership matches this season, including as a touch judge in the grand final, Beattie said the appointment still came as a shock - especially when she started receiving messages congratulating her when thinking she was only going to be involved in the Under 19 clash.

Beattie officiating a BHP Premiership game earlier this season. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Beattie officiating a BHP Premiership game earlier this season. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

"It's a funny story actually... I was my placement break and I had checked my phone a little bit earlier and got a text from Glen Richardson just saying congratulations and how he excited he was and I was little bit like… oh that’s nice, he’s excited… I mean, he was really excited," Beattie said.

"And then I had a message left from Jared Maxwell on my phone and because I was told I was doing the 19s line the night before, I just thought it was a general congratulations call.

"But then I called him back and he said congratulations on doing the women’s line and I kind of said back.. yeah, thanks. The 19s will be really good and he was like… no, obviously you were originally put on the 19s but you’re doing the women’s now.

"I was like… oh, okay. I’ve kind of just caught up; so it was a big surprise and I was very excited and I’m not sure how focussed I was on my patients for the rest of the day but yeah, it was really exciting.

"It’s also really special [to run out here at home]. All my family can come and watch, I actually did my first game only 200 metres away from here [at Kawana], so it’s very special."

Lesley Johnston, Kailey Beattie and Vic Collins. Photo: Cameron Stallard/QRL
Lesley Johnston, Kailey Beattie and Vic Collins. Photo: Cameron Stallard/QRL

Sunshine Coast / Gympie Rugby League Referees Association president Vic Collins said the two achievements are a testament to Beattie's dedication to the greatest game of all.

"We made a social media post earlier in the week saying good things come to those who wait, but it’s actually good things come to those who work," Collins said.

"Things have come for KB over hard work and a really intense dedication to the game.

"As a recipient of this award, Kailey also gives back to the association helping out our junior selections, running training and being a mentor to many young referees and to see someone like her get not only this award but also get this appointment is a real recognition of effort and and it’s really proud for us on the Sunshine Coast to see that."

The accolades were also particularly special to Johnston's wife Lesley, who said her late husband would be so proud at how far Beattie has come since first picking up the whistle.

"She started when she was 15 and we’ve seen her grow to where she is today... Richie would be so proud indeed," Johnston said.

"Richie was all for promoting the women to come through and started with Belinda and look what we have here today. He was so passionate about his rugby league. That was his life.

"When I arrived here today [to meet with Kailey], I had a few tears and I wished he could be here today to see it through from the beginning to where she is now.

"So, Richie we have to say thank you and I understand you passion to produce the talent we have to represent Queensland referees."

Beattie with Lesley Johnston. Photo: Cameron Stallard/QRL
Beattie with Lesley Johnston. Photo: Cameron Stallard/QRL

Looking to the future, Beattie said while officiating in the NRLW would be a goal in mind, she really just wants to focus on each game individually and make sure she is putting in 

"I guess I just have to do a good job [in the game]," Beattie said.

"I like to take every opportunity as it comes and I don’t like to look too far ahead. I just keep turning up and keep doing what I’m doing and then see what happens.

"I want to enjoy everything that comes my way and keep working and give back to all the people who gave back to me."