Belinda strides into rugby league history
ALASTAIR Sleeman had jokingly told daughter Belinda not to get her first NRL referee appointment this week while he was on his annual fishing trip to Yellow Patch.
He gave it no more thought as he motored away from Rosslyn Bay on Monday morning bound for the anglers' paradise about five hours away.
He had dropped anchor about 1.30pm and was just about to crack a cold beer when his fishing buddy's phone rang.
On the other end was an understandably excited Cathy Sleeman who was calling to tell her husband that Belinda had been appointed and was poised to make rugby league history.
Belinda last night became the first female referee to officiate an NRL game, taking the whistle in Brisbane's 28-6 win over Canterbury at Suncorp Stadium.
Alastair was thrilled to hear the news, which was a dream come true for Belinda (now Sharpe).
He happily cut short his fishing trip and he and Cathy flew to Brisbane to witness the momentous occasion, along with Belinda's two older sisters Angela and Tanya.
"I'd jokingly said to Belinda just the other day, you'd better not get the appointment for your first middle this week - and blow me down if I didn't get a phone call about 2 o'clock on Monday to tell me she had,” Alastair said.
"She tried to call me but my phone didn't work down there so Cathy rang my mate's phone.
"When I finally got to talk to her, she said: 'Dad, I've made it, I've got to the big time'.”
Alastair said he would never have missed his daughter's historic debut.
"I'd always said to Belinda: 'When you get appointed, I don't care where it is in the world, I'll be there.
"I knew the day would come. I just had a gut feeling that she would make it.
"There were no signs, no hints. The NRL keep their cards close to their chest but I had a feeling she would make it either this year or next year.
"It was a very memorable night for the whole family.”
Alastair was invited to present Belinda with the referee's jersey.
"I had to say a few quick words. I said 'You've come a long way from the under-8s at Gracemere to the NRL stage, you've worked very hard and you've finally made it'.
"She had a tear in her eye and I choked up a bit as well because it was a very big moment.
"Belinda had the honour of being the first (female referee) which is great for her and great for our family.”
Belinda has received impressive reviews, with former Jillaroos star Ruan Sims saying she performed brilliantly and maintained the flow of the game.
Alastair watched the game alongside Belinda's husband Clayton, an accomplished referee and NRL touch judge.
"He said the first half she never put a foot wrong and the second half was just about the same.
"I had access to the comms last night, the communication that the refs have. In one ear plug I had the refs and in the other I had Channel Nine and she was given a lot of raps by those guys.
"When we got back into the rooms it was smiles all round.
"Before she had a rubdown and got in the ice bath we had a chat and a hug. I told her she had done well and done us proud.
"She said 'I think I went alright'.”
- 2019: First female referee to officiate in an NRL game
- 2017: Touch judge in four Tests during the World Cup
- 2015: Started refereeing Intrust Super Cup games
- 2014: First female touch judge appointed to an NRL game