Australia

Praise heaped on NRL's first female referee in historic match

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Belinda Sharpe has gone down in history as the NRL's first female referee, and the 246th overall, when the Brisbane Broncos hosted the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium.

The Brisbane Broncos might have rolled the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in Thursday night's NRL clash, but Belinda Sharpe was the real star of the night. 

The 32-year-old has become the first-top flight female rugby league referee in Australia after officiating the match, which ended with a 28-6 win for the Broncos. 

Social media was flooded in praise for Sharpe in the lead-up to the game, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk joining Sharpe running out on the ground. 

Sharpe has a long history with the game, becoming an NRL touch judge in 2014 and officiating in that capacity at the 2017 World Cup.

In May, Sharpe and Kasey Badger were upgraded to full-time referee contracts, suggesting the significant appointment wasn't too far away.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg has congratulated Belinda Sharpe on the historic role. 

Referee Belinda Sharpe is seen during the Round 18 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Thursday, July 18, 2019. Sharpe is the first female in the history of the NRL to referee, after she was a
Belinda Sharpe is the first female in the history of the NRL to referee, after she was appointed assist referee to lead referee Ben Cummins for the match.
AAP

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

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