Women’s sport weekly wrap: Kasey Badger and Belinda Sleeman make history

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    In Week 1 of the NRL finals, two very special women will make history.

    On Friday night, in the game between the Sydney Roosters and the Brisbane Broncos, Kasey Badger will become the first female to officiate an NRL finals game.

    Not far behind her is Belinda Sleeman, who will run the touchline in the game between the Penrith Panthers and the Manly Sea Eagles.

    Earlier this week, Phil Rothfield wrote an article critical of the NRL and Tony Archer because neither Kasey nor Belinda had been given their opportunity to officiate a first-grade match this season. According to Buzz, last week’s game between the Wests Tigers and New Zealand Warriors would have been a perfect opportunity to give one of these women an opportunity, given the match stakes were so low.

    Part of me wants to agree with Buzz and part of me wants to trust the process.

    Kasey often jokes that “refereeing is the world’s longest apprenticeship” and I would have to agree. Both of these women have had the opportunity to referee in the Holden Cup and the State Cup, and form an integral part of the overall emerging referees squad.

    Some have labelled the referee performances this year as the ‘worst ever’, and questioned why Kasey and Belinda have not been given an opportunity. While I can certainly point to some awful decisions, we as a rugby league community spend too much time levelling blame at the referees, when perhaps coaches and players should be looking in their own backyards first.

    Featuring in the 2017 finals series means that Belinda and Kasey are both one step closer to making their first grade refereeing debut.

    Watch this space, I expect it will happen next year.

    Victoria dominate AFLW State of Origin
    Last weekend, Victoria claimed a massive 97-point win over the Allies in the inaugural AFLW State of Origin, with the final score of 17.11.113 to 2.6.16.

    For Victoria, Daisy Pearce was a stand-out, with 37 disposals and one goal, while Jasmine Garner kicked five goals, including four in the second half alone.

    A bad night was made even worse for the Allies with injuries to captain Chelsea Randall, Emma Zielke and Kirby Bentley.

    It’s clear that while the AFLW has been a tremendous success, there is still plenty of work to do – not just in ensuring the competition is a more level playing field, and talent is equally dispersed around the country, but also that players are training appropriately to ensure the risk of injury is minimised.

    This is also an issue in rugby league. Heading into this year’s Interstate Challenge, Brad Donald was confident that a lack of game time would see some injuries sustained – and he was absolutely right.

    We have a responsibility to ensure that when we are thinking about our women’s competitions, sustainability is always at the forefront.

    Cricket is coming
    As the AFL and NRL seasons draw to a close, we are getting closer to another summer of cricket.

    This week, Cricket Australia launched its next five-year strategy and, rightly so, women and girls were a key focus – alongside grassroots and junior cricket.

    Women and girls are not a new area of thinking for cricket, but the strategy made me reflect on how much cricket has achieved in the last two years. We have seen the introduction of the Women’s Big Bash League, the NSW Breakers become Australia’s first professional domestic team, Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association agreed to terms which included a landmark pay deal for female cricketers, and the name of the Southern Stars was changed to the Australian Women’s Cricket Team for use in official circumstances.

    Imagine what we can do in the next five years together, particularly with the World T20 being held in Australia in 2020. The sky’s the limit and it all begins in just over a month’s time with the women’s Ashes.

    Kristen Beams Meg Lanning celebrate

    AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

    Cronulla Sharks celebrate
    Last weekend, the Cronulla Sharks celebrated their inaugural women’s team presentation night.

    The Sharks are true leaders, with a complete pathway for women to play rugby league.

    I want to congratulate all the women who received awards on the night – both the Cronulla Sharks nines team and the Tarsha Gale team.

    I also wanted to extend special congratulations to Amanda King, who organised the evening. Amanda recognised the importance of placing these women front and centre, and celebrating their achievements. Amanda was also a volunteer manager for both teams (or what I like to call the resident ‘mother hen’) and spent countless hours supporting and encouraging these women to pursue their rugby league dreams.

    Amanda, it is because of women like you that our game is slowly beginning to change.

    What are you doing this weekend?
    If you are based in Sydney, like me, I encourage you to head out to Macquarie University on Saturday and Sunday for the second round of the University 7s to cheer on your team.

    You won’t get another opportunity like this to watch up-and-coming talent, as well as see plenty of the gold-medal winning squad from Rio play together.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • Roar Guru

      September 8th 2017 @ 10:25am
      Nat said | September 8th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

      Hi Mary,
      Last week Matt Clearly wrote an interesting article about ref and their training and accuracy percentage. Do you have the data on how Kasey and Belinda went in their respective games and training. Surely in a year when we have had many critical errors an refs stood down, including Women in League round, why it’s taken to now to take this next step?

      On another (personal) note, I know citing Buzz Rothfield suits your cause but he is a click bait champion who will write the opposite next week should they stuff this week. I respect he has longevity and contacts but you write far higher, consistent quality.

      • Columnist

        September 8th 2017 @ 11:00am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | September 8th 2017 @ 11:00am | ! Report

        Hi Nat

        Thanks for your comment – I don’t have that data… but let me see if I can track it down.

        Re Buss, it’s interesting – I know he has plenty of agenda’s so when I saw him come out and criticise the NRL for not giving Kasey and Belinda a crack, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it.

        I think I trust the process and know that when the time is right, they will be given an opportunity. 🙂

        Thanks for your kind words about my work too – I really appreciate it.

    • Roar Rookie

      September 8th 2017 @ 12:33pm
      catcat said | September 8th 2017 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

      Thanks Mary, great read…so happy to hear about these women and their accomplishments 🙂

    • September 8th 2017 @ 12:42pm
      Rob said | September 8th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report


      I enjoy reading most of your articles as I can tell you put a lot of thought into them and in some cases make people perhaps think outside the box.

      In regards to Buzz he is just one of those media seeking attention/causing drama type people who more often than not are actually a distraction rather than writing anything truthful or at least correcting his rights when he is wrong.

      Much could be argued the same for Paul Kent. Just take the whole saga at the titans for example where he has admitted himself that Neil Henry asked him not to publish the story on Hayne early in the year and to give up his source but did not do either so Henry stopped talking to him.

      As much energy as they put into breaking a story I never see as much energy put in to right a wrong they may have committed. Hence I take anything they say with a grain of salt only for the mere fact I’m interested to read or hear what rumours are going around just to see if they end up with egg on their face.

      Having said this I believe the young ladies in question should have had a crack by now to officiate the game as in all honesty the referees hit the lowest of lows this year and quite frankly the confidence they have shown on the sideline leads me to believe they would show it on the field as well. When they were being booed for their decisions as a touch judge the crowd soon went silent after the replay was shown on the big screen due to the correct calls they made.

      I do also disagree with the comment you made about levelling to much blame on the Refs. The inconsistancies shown in every game throughout every week of this year just shows how dysfunctional the Ref squad is and Tony Archer as the boss performs. Not to mention they have the bunker with all the technology that they can not use properly either in that one week it’s called one way then the next the other way. Case in point the Bulldogs player had a player sent off for 10mins for obstructing another player for possibly scoring a try. The bunker was not certain the try would be scored so no penalty try was awarded but the sin bin offence was upheld. Since that game I’m positive that at least 2 maybe 3 penalty tries have been awarded due to players been taken out and not one of them were sent off for to the sin bin….. How does this make sense???

      If the Refs were consistent week in week out I think you will find that people will accept it a lot more than what they do now but given the inconsistencies =and a bunker that can’t even rule correctly, this is why Fans are up in arms. I can assure you the fans are questioning their teams as I have done all year with my beloved Doggies but it does not help when the 50/50 calls are being officiated one way.

    • Roar Guru

      September 8th 2017 @ 1:26pm
      Scott Pryde said | September 8th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

      Great stuff Mary,

      I think it’s all relative. There are plenty of touch judges in the NRL who are biding their time as well. We can’t ‘just give them an opportunity because they are women.’ If they earn it, then I’m all for it, but a touch judge like Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamsk has spent years and years running the line and had a chance to be an assistant referee in a game this year.

      As I said, if they earn it, then that’s fine, but there are a lot of NRL touch judges who want to be refereeing. Keep developing the women, keep developing everyone. No one should be thrown into the job before they are ready simply because of circumstances.

    • Roar Guru

      September 8th 2017 @ 1:51pm
      Nat said | September 8th 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

      I think most level headed patrons agree on Rothfield Rob and Kent has that same level of arrogance. However, Kent did go on to say that he got in touch with Henry to confirm the story. That is when Henry got n touch and asked him not to run the story – he did anyway and neither Henry or Hayne would speak with him again. I’m not defending either of them as I have little respect for their work but they do have sources.

      Occasionally though they get it right. As do the refs on the overwhelming majority of times but it is the likes of Kent and Buzz who write up then sprook the failings of the refs – especially around Origin time. I’ve seen them be very critical about the dogs this year because they have performed well below par. No one likes to hear bad news about their team but finding fault with the dogs this year is not the media or the refs 50/50 calls. Penalties usually favour the attacking team and the Doggies defence is quite good for their position on the ladder. It is their complete inability to score that has seen them fail so badly and that has little to do with the ref.

    • September 8th 2017 @ 2:16pm
      Ken Spacey said | September 8th 2017 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

      The Football Fed SA have their all day finals at Coopers Stadium this week. Several games across different comps etc but the women’s final has been placed behind only the men’s NPL final but ahead of all other men’s finals. The attendance on day ebbs and flows but the best crowds will gather for latter games and will give the girls a good audience.

      PS the Federal Govt and the alternative PM have committed to bidding for the Fifa Women’s World Cup. It would be nice to hear some media folks, especially women who feel the girl’s deserve more focus, to start beating the drum and talking it up as an idea. Matildas now ranked no. 6 in world, Sam Kerr a chance to win world player of year. Where is the love?

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