St Helens’ Tara Jones details ambition for history-making achievement to pave the way

George Riley
St Helens' Tara Jones

St Helens' Tara Jones skips over for the first try in the 2023 Women's Challenge Cup final at Wembley

Tara Jones believes her historic refereeing debut will open the door for more female officials to be appointed to big fixtures throughout professional rugby league.

The St Helens and England star became the first woman to referee a senior professional domestic game in the Northern Hemisphere last Sunday when she took charge of League 1 leaders Oldham’s 46-10 win over Cornwall at Boundary Park.

Jones had already made history last year by scoring the first ever try in a women’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley, and the 28-year-old told Love Rugby League that she believes this was another milestone moment in the growth of the women’s game.

“I always talk about how at one time I was the only graded female match official and there wasn’t really a pathway for females in rugby league, whether that be playing or officiating,” Jones told Love Rugby League.

“Now there are so many opportunities every week and there are more and more young female officials being appointed out on games, it is great to see.

The RFL department now has a pathway for women and girls to come into officiating and take part in that so hopefully I can lead the way there and show the girls there is somewhere they can go with it.”

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St Helens’ Tara Jones details ambition for history-making achievement to pave the way: ‘It is only going to go in one direction’

Jones’ performance in the middle at Boundary Park was all the more impressive given her try-scoring appearance for Saints in their Challenge Cup win over Huddersfield Giants just 24 hours earlier.

With that win, Jones and her team-mates moved to within 80 minutes of a return to Wembley, hoping to lift the Challenge Cup for the fourth year on the bounce.

Post-match last Sunday, she continued: “Playing and officiating are so different and I really enjoy both roles, that is something I manage myself.

“I played yesterday and then out refereeing, which is something that I am used to. I wouldn’t have wanted to play two days in a row though, my body might not cope with that!”

Former Super League official and now referees’ boss Phil Bentham was in attendance at Boundary Park, visited the officials’ room before kick-off with a good luck message.

Blackpool-born Jones – who moved to Warrington as a youngster and started her playing career in the junior ranks at community outfit Crosfields – put in a polished display, with 1,136 watching on as Sean Long’s Roughyeds made it four wins from four.

“The facilities were amazing, the stadium is a great setting and a really nice place to be for my first one,”  she added.

The hooker now believes her latest piece of history can be a further catalyst in the growth of the women’s game.

“The playing has taken off a lot more quickly than the officiating, but the last couple of years with the pathway that the RFL have put in place it has really taken off and they have done a really good job on that.

“It is only going to go in one direction and that is getting more and more girls involved.”

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