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St Helens Women’s player to referee headline men’s fixture

History will be made this weekend as the first woman has been appointed to referee a men’s senior domestic professional rugby league game – and it’s a current St Helens Women’s player.

England star Tara Jones will take charge of the headline clash in League One this weekend, making rugby league history in the process as the first female official of a professional men’s fixture in the Northern Hemisphere.

Jones will head to Boundary Park on Sunday as Sean Long’s Oldham host Cornwall with the Roughyeds looking to maintain their perfect start to the season.

St Helens star to make history

Tara Jones warming up for St Helens at Wembley Stadium.

Tara Jones. Credit: Imago Images

Jones, 27, will be making history for the second time in her career, having scored the opening try in the first Women’s Challenge Cup Final for St Helens against Leeds Rhinos at Wembley last August.

Her appointment to this weekend’s game is a deserved opportunity for Jones, having worked her way up the professional officiating ranks at the same time as playing at the elite level of the women’s game for St Helens and England.

Speaking to the official RFL website, The RFL’s Head of Match Officials Phil Bentham was full of praise for Jones as she prepares to make history.

“Tara has earned this opportunity after years of steady development as a match official through the community game and as a regular touch judge and in-goal judge for professional matches.

“She has received high-profile appointments in a number of competitions, including this season’s Betfred Challenge Cup, and has impressed everyone with the way she has performed – earning the respect of players, coaches and her fellow match officials.”

More female referees to come?

Rugby league in the UK needs more referees in general, with the opportunity to take up the whistle not chosen by many given the challenges of the role.

So with that in mind it is great to see Jones given a fixture and make rugby league history, potentially starting a wave of more interest from female officials.

Given the struggle for referees the game has, it goes without saying that if the pool of officials to choose from gets bigger, whether that’s male or female, the better it will be for the game.

If that does happen, there will be a much greater chance of improving the standard of officiating at the top level in Super League, the competition that Jones, quite rightly, will be aiming to referee in one day.

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