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UC partners with NRL to train female refs

Antony Perry

27 April 2018: Females hoping to one day take charge of a State of Origin match or other elite level rugby league fixtures are a step closer to achieving their dream thanks to a new program based at the University of Canberra.

The University has partnered with the National Rugby League (NRL) to help shape the careers of the next generation of referees through the governing body’s High-Performance University Based Structure (HUBS).

HUBS is a key component of the NRL’s new National Structure of Officiating and has been established to help facilitate the delivery of physical and educational programs.

The NRL hopes it will lead to a giant leap forward in referee development, providing participants with a clear and supported pathway.

Several tertiary institutions around the country, chiefly ones in regional areas, are involved in the program, but the University of Canberra is the only participating partner focused predominantly on boosting female involvement in the sport.

Participants will be educated in everything from the rules of the game to strength and conditioning practices, providing them with a foundation from which to reach higher levels of the sport.

The University’s Director of Sport, Carrie Graf, said the decision to focus on women was in line with the institution’s broader strategy around sport and physical activity.

“We are a sport-loving university and we want to be recognised as a leader in this field, particularly when it comes to women,” Ms Graf said.

“Australia’s most successful women’s basketball team, the University of Canberra Capitals, is owned by, and based at, the University. We have a team in the ground-breaking women’s national rugby sevens competition and a relationship with Canberra United in the W-League.

“The University has long been committed to women’s sport and our involvement with the NRL’s HUBS initiative is an opportunity to further our work around promoting and increasing female participation in sport, no matter the capacity.”

Students at the University have already been involved in the HUBS initiative, helping deliver training programs in recent weeks, while staff have helped develop coursework for the training programs.

The arrangement could also see researchers at the University contribute their expertise to improving areas of the game, including determining why players wanting to become referees at the end of their career may struggle with the transition.

The NRL’s Manager of Communications and Logistics, Robert Finch, said the HUBS concept was mutually beneficial because it provided research, training and learning opportunities for university students and staff.

“We want to maximise a national footprint for officiating and at the same time, provide central points within regions to deliver national structure programs and courses,” Mr Finch said.

“NRL personnel, staff and university students will work cooperatively to deliver programs utilising university facilities and intellectual resources.”

Mr Finch said in time, HUBS could be expanded into digital and social media, business development, administration and possibly allied health, while also encouraging community engagement opportunities for universities.