History to be made in refereeing

They say that rugby league is a man’s game, but one woman is set to change all that – with Kasey Badger to create NRL history, by becoming the first woman to referee a Toyota Cup game.

Kasey Badger, 25, started her refereeing journey in 2004, as a local referee in the Parramatta junior competition – and is now set to take one step further in her refereeing career, when she becomes the first woman to referee a Toyota Cup game at Brookvale Oval on Saturday.

For Kasey, the goal is to eventually go one step further, and join her NRL referee husband Gavin Badger, and referee a game in the NRL.

“I don’t work as hard as I do or train as hard as I do for nothing,” Kasey said yesterday.

“I know I’ve got an apprenticeship to serve and I know it can seem like the longest apprenticeship in the world sometimes. Just ask Gavin, it took him 16 years.

“But that’s what I have to do to get where I want.”

Gavin Badger is confident that his wife has what it takes to become a full-time NRL referee in first-grade, citing her fitness and dedication, as just a small part of the equation.

“She’s got no problem yelling at me so I’ve got no doubt she can handle herself out there. She can hold her own with anyone.”

Kasey is not only receiving support from her husband, with Tony Danks, who is the New South Wales Rugby League referees coach, believing that it was merely a matter of time before she cracked the big-time in the NRL.

An advantage that Kasey has, is training alongside her husband, who is seen as one of the fittest referees in the NRL – giving her the edge fitness wise.

“It has nothing to do with special treatment, and that’s exactly the way I want it,” she said.

“All I want is to be rewarded for hard work. That’s it.”

Despite her advances as a referee into a more male-dominated society, Kasey says that she has had her fair share of criticism from fans.

“If any referee says they haven’t copped flak they’re lying,” she said.

“Generally the players are really good. They might be a bit more careful around me. The crowd are the worst.

“I’ve copped it hard. One guy even said ‘That’s why women shouldn’t be allowed to referee’.

“But that’s nothing new. That doesn’t bother me.

“They’ll throw out different lines at me but I think the level of abuse I get is the same as other referees.”

Kasey is already having an effect, with young talent that she has refereed in the SG Ball Competition, or during her time as a touch-judge – with players always being on their best behaviour around her.

“A lot of them will apologise if they swear around me now and say ‘sorry miss’.”

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