Sharpe hopes to inspire future female refs

Belinda Sharpe is poised to become the first female to referee an NRL game in Brisbane on Thursday.
Belinda Sharpe is poised to become the first female to referee an NRL game in Brisbane on Thursday.

Belinda Sharpe is hoping her historic appointment will inspire a generation of female referees to follow her example and officiate NRL games in the future.

Sharpe will become the first woman to referee an NRL game when she debuts as the pocket referee in Thursday's match between Brisbane and Canterbury.

"There are a number of female referees right across the country now, particularly at the grassroots level," Sharpe told reporters on Tuesday.

"(It is) fantastic to see, and hopefully they can see that they can make a fulltime career out of this and they can get to this point and referee a first grade game.

"I hope it inspires other people to be involved in the game."

Sharpe is adamant that her gender had never been a barrier since she first picked up the whistle in her hometown of Rockhampton.

And while she acknowledges the significance of the occasion, Sharpe is intent on narrowing her focus on the job at hand.

"I know it interests a lot of other people. I understand being the first, it does bring that interest," she said.

"But for me, I've never been treated any differently on the field and I've certainly never been treated any different by my colleagues and by the other referees.

"And that's the way I like it to be."

Sharpe is also unfazed by the prospect of making her debut under the bright lights of prime time football at Suncorp Stadium on a Thurday night.

Nor is she daunted by dealing with the different personalities in the game.

"I've been around a little while now and experienced a number of different players, a number of different personalities on the field," Sharpe said.

"So I'm sure each game will bring it's different challenges, but that's part and parcel of being a referee."

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said Sharpe was deserving of the call-up.

"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," Greenberg said.

"This is an historic moment for the game and one which should be celebrated."

Australian Associated Press