Badger earns NRL refereeing debut

Kasey Badger will make her NRL refereeing debut when she runs the sideline for the Gold Coast v Penrith clash at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Badger, who will become the second female ever to officiate an NRL game after Belinda Sleeman did so late last season and has since gone on to run the sideline of four NRL games, told NRL.com she was excited to finally achieve a goal she's been working towards since first becoming a referee in the local Parramatta competition in 2004. 

Badger was buoyed by the selection made by NRL referees boss Tony Archer and said Sleeman and her own pathway to the NRL proves a career path in refereeing is available to anyone, in what is another positive step for her personal refereeing career.

"It's something I've worked hard for and something which I've tried to put myself in the best position to be selected for, if the opportunity arose. I knew I'd been going along well, it was just whether an opportunity presented itself and thankfully it did," Badger said.

"It shows [refereeing is] not restricted to anyone of any gender, age, height or anything –  if you're good enough to do a job then you're able to choose it as a career path if you wish. 

"So hopefully other females see that and people who love the game decide to get involved because the wider the net we cast to the younger referees the better the people we get rising through to the elite level."

Badger has always been a fan of the game, which she played between the ages of four and 12 before strapping on the boots again when she was 18.

Intrigued by the decision of a friend to partake in a refereeing course, Badger tagged along and discovered she genuinely enjoyed the experience, labelling it "my way of staying involved in the game". 

After referring the SG Ball Grand Final in 2010, Badger was graded in the NSWRL squad and was elevated to a part-time contract with the NRL squad at the beginning of last year.

Now currently juggling her time as a member of the NRL's Education and Research team and refereeing, Badger is excited that it's all starting to pay off after earlier giving up full time work to pursue her dreams.

"It's a very long road and that's one of the main things, that you have to have the persistence to stick with it and the self-belief, because if you don't think you're going to make it then there is no point spending all that time refereeing on weekends and training mid-week," Badger said.

"The balancing act is difficult sometimes because you have to spend so much time away from home and your family and friends but if you know you want to achieve something then it's an easier sacrifice to make. 

"You have to put in long hours. Having to wake up in the morning and train, go to work all day and then train again at night time before heading home to bed and repeat that five times a week is very time consuming. However it's very rewarding as well."

So what happens if a situation arises much like the one which occurred at the end of the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs Good Friday clash?

Badger said she isn't intimidated by such scenarios and added she's learnt plenty over her career to take care of such episodes.

"If you're refereeing at any sort of higher level then you surely have the confidence and ability to deal and speak to players and deal with them in those situations," Badger said.

"It's not enjoyable [when that happens] but I don't think I've ever felt intimidated by a player who was attempting to strike fear in me. I just use the skills I've built up over the years to deal with those situations."