Ahead of the Jillaroos test against New Zealand, NRL referee Kasey Badger reflects on what could have been... but would she change it?
Kasey Badger, Presented by
Danielle Warby

5 May 2016 - 7:25 PM  UPDATED 5 May 2016 - 7:30 PM

My earliest memory of rugby league is...

I started playing the game when I was four, so most of my early life memories revolve around football, but from a top grade level some of my earliest memories are watching Mal Meninga kick for goal.

When I was playing I would always toe poke the ball and that was just copying what Mal Meninga did. You know, he was probably one of the biggest players at the time when I was really young, so I always remember that, trying to copy the way he kicked for goal, and I remember going to watch him play his last game for Australia in Australia at Parramatta Stadium. I always remember that as well.

I wasn’t exactly inspired to become a referee

It was sort of a bit of an accident really. So, as I said, I played the game for years and then there were no avenues once I turned 13 for girls to play anymore, so I played sort of every other sport available in the country. And then I had a friend when I was in Year 12, he wanted to do a referee’s course and pretty much he didn’t have his licence and needed a lift to the place and he asked me if I would go and hang out with him and if my mum could give us a lift. So I was on the way home from school and got a text message and said to mum:

“Oh mum, can you drive me to Parramatta Leagues Club to do this referee’s course?”

It was just to hang out with him but I did the course and then started refereeing. So it wasn’t inspiring, it was a bit of by accident, but then I started it and just fell in love with it.

It’s exciting to see the rise of the Jillaroos and how much publicity and promotion they’re getting

It’s really exciting to see on one hand and on the other hand it’s so frustrating. I see these things come out like this new Under 14s and Under 16s competitions and I’m like, “Oh, where was this when I was that age?”

It was so heartbreaking for me as a 12 year old, I finished playing and won the best & fairest award in the under 12s and then couple of months later:

“Oh, you’re not allowed to play anymore”.

I could have been a contender… I could have been a Jillaroo!

I played some open-age football once I turned 18 and 19, I played in the women’s competition, played for City, got asked to train on with the New South Wales side and stuff like that, and by that stage I’d started refereeing and really had to pick what I wanted to do.

Refereeing gave me the chance to have a career to get out on the field in the NRL, to be paid for pretty much living the life of an athlete, so that took me down that path.

But it’s something when I see the Jillaroos play, I saw the Auckland Nines and see them in the test matches, I just think oh jeez, I would have at least once loved to have done that, to pull on that jersey and have the national anthem playing and that, it’s something that I would have loved to have done. No regrets about the path that I’ve chosen, but that’s just something that I would have loved to have done.

Kasey Badger joined the Ladies who League podcast, listen to the full shoe and the rest of her interview:

Catch the Jillaroos in action this Friday

  • The Jillaroos play the New Zealand Ferns at 5:20pm at Hunter Stadium.  
  • You can catch the game LIVE via NRL's Digital Pass
  • The Jillaroos match will be replayed on GEM at 10.15pm on Friday night AEST, following coverage of the men’s test.

Quick shots from left field: Kezie Apps
Jillaroos player, Kezie Apps faces the New Zealand Ferns on Friday night in Newcastle. She got in some hard training by answering our tough questions.