First woman to officiate a professional men’s rugby league game in Northern Hemisphere confirmed as Tara Jones creates history

Aaron Bower

Tara Jones will make more history this weekend when she becomes the first woman to referee a senior professional Rugby League fixture in the Northern Hemisphere.

The 27-year-old St Helens and England international already has her place in rugby league history, having scored the first try in a Women’s Challenge Cup Final to take place at Wembley last August. And she will now officiate a men’s fixture for the very first time, after being appointed to the League 1 game between Oldham and Cornwall on Sunday.

“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,” the RFL’s head of match officials, Phil Bentham, said.

“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.”

Bentham also confirmed a number of additions to the Match Officials Department since he joined the RFL full-time from football’s Professional Game Match Officials Limited last month.

Andy Smith, a highly respected and experienced touch judge, has been appointed a new full-time coach in the Match Officials Department, with a focus on touch judges.

Meanwhile three former officials have returned to the sport as Match Officials reviewers – James Child, Ian Smith and Matt Thomason.

Phil Bentham added: “I am delighted that Andy has joined our department full-time, and that James, Ian and Matt are also back in the team. All four bring a wealth of experience, covering many match officials’ roles, and will provide invaluable feedback and coaching to our officials.”

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