The solid growth in the women’s game among players in NSW is not being matched by the same interest from females wanting to officiate them, but long-serving NRL referee Gavin Badger is hoping to change that.
A two-day conference to be held in the Canberra Raiders Centre of Excellence on 25-26 June will bring together 40 women from the far north coast down to the Victorian border and to outer western districts of NSW.
These are women who have been officiating at grassroots level but have not taken the next steps into the NSWRL High Performance Referees group.
“We sent out expressions of interest through the clubs and originally had planned to meet up in Wollongong, but COVID played havoc with those plans so we set about finding another date,” NSWRL Officiating Development Coordinator Badger said.
The obvious choice was to have the conference coincide with the 2022 Ampol Women’s State of Origin game at Canberra’s GIO Stadium on Friday 24 June.
The ACT is one of the biggest growth areas for Rugby League in terms of women’s participation rates.
“But we have a lack of numbers in high performance refereeing, which is not marrying up with the interest in the game,” Badger said.
“We have a lot of girls coming in and refereeing but then they leave.
“So, over the weekend we’re not only looking at skills and personal development, we want to find out – especially me as a male in the game – what are the issues or stumbling blocks to keeping them around.
“It could be things we’ve never thought about like the simple differences in gear or access to change rooms – some of the same things we found in the playing space as well.
“We want to hear from them what we can do to get better at having them stay in the game.”
Following the conference, Badger said regular contact would be kept with the women in conjunction with the NRL’s referee development officers working in those districts.
“We’ll keep track of these girls and continue to guide them into our pathways, junior reps squads where possible, and make sure they are made to feel valued for the work they do,” he said.
“We also want them to have someone to turn to if they’re not getting what they need.”