Rockhampton’s Belinda Sleeman is one step away from becoming the first woman to officiate an NRL game.
This follows her being named to officiate in Saturday night’s trial between Brisbane and Wynnum at Kougari Oval.
Sleeman, 31, already holds the honour of being the NRL’s first female touch judge, going on to sideline officiate more than 60 NRL games since her debut in 2014.
She was also the initial female match official in Rugby League World Cup history, a feat she accomplished two years ago.
Sleeman, who works full-time in marketing for Queensland Touch Football, has honed her craft as a weekly referee in the sunshine state’s reserve grade competition
She trains every day, in sessions with the NRL’s emerging referees squad as well as individually.
Sleeman said her family, and her father in particular, had been enormously supportive of her rise through the ranks.
“My dad is a big rugby league fan and loves the game and he’s certainly proud … my whole family is proud of my achievements … and he’s pretty excited about the world cup and looking forward to seeing me on some games there,” she said.
Sleeman has been the whistleblower for a number of the Broncos’ opposed sessions over this pre-season, as well as doing her own rigorous training to ensure she is fit and fast enough for the demands of the elite level.
She says there are no nerves as she prepares for the role of assistant referee of the NRL hit-out on Saturday night, only excitement and eagerness.
“It’s a huge opportunity to test myself at the next level,” Sleeman told The Daily Telegraph.
“I used to play and ref touch football where I grew up in Rockhampton then tried rugby league when I was 18. I always had a passion for the game with my dad.”
Sleeman is adamant she is physically ready to step up to the NRL.
“I’m required to reach the same parameters and expectations as the whole [refs] squad,” she said.