The World Cup is the pinnacle for athletes and the same is true for match officials, according to history-making match official Belinda Sleeman who can't wait to get involved in the tournament starting this month.
Sleeman – a regular lead referee in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup as well as a week-to-week sideline official at NRL level – was on Tuesday announced as the first female referee in a Rugby League World Cup.
"For a player the pinnacle is to represent your country and it's no different for match officials to be involved in international games is certainly exciting and I'm looking forward to it," Sleeman told NRL.com.
Sleeman will head into camp with the other 25 officials on October 22 in Brisbane; the group is drawn entirely from the NRL and English Super League and Sleeman welcomed the chance to learn from her northern hemisphere counterparts.
"That is exciting; we don't to spend a lot of time with those guys and I'll be meeting a lot of them for the first time so it's definitely an exciting opportunity to discuss the differences in our competitions, potentially the differences in officiating between the two competitions," she said.
"We go into camp in a couple of weeks' time. We're all based in Brisbane, we'll all come together and effectively be the 15th team of the World Cup and I think that's a fantastic initiative.
"In previous years international tournaments officials have come from all over the place but not stayed together. I think that's going to be a real benefit for us this year, being together as a team for the entire time."
While the tournament will be Sleeman's World Cup debut, it won't represent her international debut given she featured in the May Pacific Test between Tonga and Fiji in what has been a memorable year for the Rockhampton product.
"I'm really pleased with the season this year," she said.
"I was involved in a Test match earlier in the year and then involved in the finals series at the back end of the year so I'm certainly excited to finish with a world cup this year and look forward to 2018."
Sleeman continued to juggle her dual Intrust and NRL refereeing duties with full-time work as marketing communications manager with Queensland Touch Football.
"I juggled both of [the refereeing roles] throughout the season so often, at least half of the weekends this season I was doubling up so I'd do an NRL game and an Intrust Super Cup game in the one weekend, so it was certainly tiring towards the back end of the year with a lot of games," she said.
"I love being able to balance both those roles and being involved in NRL in first grade is fantastic and that's where I learned to be a better referee as well, learning from the best officials in our game. That's been great to be able to balance both this year.
"I'm only part-time contracted with the NRL so I do have another job [with Queensland Touch] as well, it certainly keeps me very busy throughout the year. I enjoy all aspects of it as well, the training away from officiating as well but just being organised and managing to balance everything is a challenge and one I enjoy."