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Adams first female referee to receive rare honour

Referees were in short supply out in the junior grades at Narrabri in northwest NSW in the late 1990s, so Bev Adams put her hand up to learn the trade.

“What started it all was a lack of referees in the junior league my son was playing in so that’s how I got into it,” Adams told

“I went from coaching to refereeing and I got hooked.”

More than a quarter of a century later and Adams has become a beacon for females plying their skills in an area of Rugby League that not many women have ventured.

Her longevity and determination to not only be respected out in the middle, but to ensure others had the chance to pick up a whistle, has earned Adams a Life Membership with the Country Rugby League Referees Association (CRLRA).

Adams, who now lives in Forster on the NSW central coast, is the first woman to receive the honour.

“It’s fantastic for me – just to be recognised in the industry means a lot to me,” she said, noting that acceptance from some sections of the game wasn’t always easy.

“At times maybe but there’s been no issue whatsoever with the players. They don’t care if you’re male or female – as long as you know the rules and make the right decisions.

“The hardest challenge, especially for myself, is not actually playing the game previously means I’ve had to work a lot harder to understand all the ins and outs.”

CRLRA Secretary Geoff Whiddon acknowledged Adams’ dedication to her craft.

“There wouldn’t be too many who have persevered like she has in a very male-dominated area,” he said.

“She’s not only persevered, she’s succeeded quite well. While there’s others around, from a Country Rugby League referees’ point of view, we believe she’s the first female to reach that level worthy of Life Membership.

“She has shown throughout her career that level of commitment that we’re looking for as a Life Member.”

He also underlined her ability to improve the standards and aptitude of CRLRA members.

“There’s a lot of people who are more than capable referees but can’t explain to someone where the improvement needs to come,” he said.

“You need those interpersonal skills to do that and Bev has got that. She’s a fantastic communicator. She’s not only a tireless and hard worker, but she’s evolved into a very good referees coach now.”

Adams retired from on-field refereeing last year but is still mentoring others to follow in her footsteps. There are 13 women now in Group 3 learning to be referees.

“I work with them but I work with the men too,” she said.

“Anyone who wants a hand, I’m more than happy to pass on some knowledge.”

Adams said one of the NRL’s referee development officers, Tony Hardy, showed a lot of belief in her helping her achieve what she has done.

It started back in 1996 when Adams acquired her Level 1 referees ticket in 1996, followed by her Level 2 four years later.

Since then she’s refereed NSW state and district school carnivals, Group 4 matches from Under 18s right through to first grade and handled junior and senior League Tag finals.

She’s also won Touch Judge of the Year, was a CRL Volunteer of the Year finalist, was referees co-ordinator for the Tamworth Minor League, completed referees Level 2 coaching courses, been appointed Vice-President of the Group 4 referees, and appointed a CRLRA Development Officer.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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