In the modern game of rugby league, female referees are starting to cement their mark as officials of the game. Referees are a vital part of the game throughout all levels, starting from the junior divisions straight up to the NRL, with many female referees officiating some of these games.
While females play an important role in all aspects of rugby league, it is great to see them being so successful as game day officials, especially deriving from the Parramatta District. The NRL currently has 7 members as part of the full time NRL Referee’s squad from the Parramatta district including Kasey Badger the first Female to referee an Under 20’s match or be a Touch Judge in the NRL.
On Saturday the 5th of September, history was made when an U13 Division 3 match played at CV Kelly Oval in Girraween was officiated by three female referees for the first time in the Parramatta District. Sabrina Shaideen, Katie Thorpe and Bianca Santi were the ladies in charge of the game and have set the path for many other females wanting to join the NRL Refereeing system.
Sabrina Shaideen was one of the Touch Judges on the day. Sabrina started Refereeing in 2013 and has steadily progressed through the rankings since. She also began doing international touch lines in 2015 which has taken her performances to new heights since.
Her fellow Touch Judge was Katie Thorpe. Katie has recently joined Parramatta as a Referee-In-Training in 2015 hoping to give back to the game of rugby league. Katie quickly excelled as a touch judge and will be one of only 6 new referees to reach a grand final in their first year, and will be officiating in the highest grade of any of the new referees from 2015.
The Central Referee was Bianca Santi. Bianca joined the association in 2010 and has excelled in all facets of refereeing during her time in Parramatta, resulting in her inclusion to NSWRLRA Junior Rep Squad for the 2015 season.
“I used to play Rugby league for Wentworthville Magpies up until the age of 12 and then I was no longer able to play in the med comp,” Bianca said.
“I then began playing for Guildford U16 Women's comp when I was 14 but the girls were just too big compared to me so my cousin who is also a referee suggested I become a ref.”
“My parents loved the idea and called Parramatta Referees and booked me into the next course and here I am now, making history for Parramatta Referees Association, officiating in the Jnr Reps Squad and hopefully continuing to make more history with Women in League.”
Although Bianca has had much success, there are also a number of challenges that she has faced as a referee.
“There have been a number of challenges I have faced but all in which have made me developed and have shaped me into the person I am today,” she said.
“As expected the biggest challenge I faced was abuse from parents, spectators and sometimes other official as a result of a decision or lack of confidence but like I mentioned that has developed me into a strong and confident women.”
“As a referee you are required to make decision under high amounts of pressure that may or may not cost a team a win and in some way that could be challenging and can often play on your mind throughout the game.”
Bianca encourages anyone who wants to become a referee to get involved and be a part of our great game because of all the positives you gain out of it.
“My advice to women looking to get involved in referees is take the leap of fate and just do it! What have you got to lose?” she said.
“I was a little hesitant at first because I didn't want to be the only girl with all these boys but I can honestly say it's the best thing I have ever done!”
“I have made life long friendships with heaps of amazing people, we are all one big family and stick by each other no matter what and that is something special.”
“I have been given opportunities to travel interstate to experience different quality of footy including Aboriginal knockouts as well as referee on the NRL field such as ANZ, Pepper stadium, Brookvale and Belmore Oval.”