Sharpe makes NRL history in Broncos season-saving win
The Brisbane Broncos have claimed a 28-6 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs with a brilliant performance to move to ninth in the NRL, one point outside the top eight.
While the rest of the league still has to play this round, it shows how close the battle for the top eight is as the Broncos split the Knights and Panthers in the top eight on 18 points and the Sharks, Cowboys and Tigers on 16 points in chase.
The Broncos have been the centre of criticism for their poor performances throughout the season but the win has seen Brisbane stay alive in the competition.
But while the Broncos victory has reinvigorated the side's finals hopes, the night will be remembered for the debut of an NRL referee.
After 111 years of rugby league in Australia, the NRL has had the first female referee in first grade.
Belinda Sharpe was called up to an on-field role after becoming a touch judge in 2014, breaking new ground for the sport.
The newest NRL referee spoke after the game.
"It was fantastic, it was everything I could hope it would be, it was fast and I really enjoyed it," Sharpe said on Channel 9. "As long as we're doing our job and making decisions and making sure there's a good flow of the game."
Speaking on The Matty Johns Show on Fox Sports, Matthew Johns said he felt it would have been more symbolic if Sharpe had done the kick-off but called it a historic night.
On Channel 9, commentator Andrew Johns said it was clearly a big event when politicians turn up to the game.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called Sharpe "another Queensland trailblazer" in a tweet yesterday but was present at the ground to meet the referee.
Good luck Belinda Sharpe - first woman referee in top grade NRL. You’ll make us all proud. pic.twitter.com/fFUN2pHuG9— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) July 18, 2019
Johns added that Sharpe's communication with the players had been great throughout the match and asked NRL legend Johnathan Thurston what he thought of the NRL's newest referee.
"Extremely (impressed)," Thurston said. "Groundbreaking for the NRL and sport in general having a female referee to referee the game. Her communication has been great on the field what she's done. It's very inspirational with four daughters of my own, someone no doubt that they'll be looking up to."
Former Jillaroos star Ruan Sims said Sharpe performed brilliantly and maintained the flow of the game.
"She had a hold of the women's State of Origin this year and she did a couple of women's Test matches in the World Cup and I found her fantastic in the middle," she said.
"As JT spoke about, her communication has been precise and clear and to the point and very respectful to the players and they treat her like that as well so it's really good to see her out there doing what she does so well and letting the game flow."
I’m just absolutely Team Belinda tonight. #NRLBroncosBulldogs— Eliza Barr (@ElizaJBarr) July 18, 2019
Great seeing Belinda Sharpe out in the middle, long overdue. Seen her ref ISC up close a few times. Hope to see her ref more nrl games this season #NRLBroncosBulldogs— James Ogrady (@jamesogrady441) July 18, 2019
View this post on Instagram
Congratulations to Belinda Sharpe on her debut as assistant referee in Round 18 of the NRL. On Thursday the 18th of July, where the Broncos played the Bulldogs, congratulations to Steve Chiddy who tonight reaches 300 games as Video Referee. Belinda is pictured with 2 female referees from Parramatta Referees are Olivia Lawne and Catherine Butler
Sharpe was able to have a relatively quiet night at the office as the Broncos outlasted a gutsy Bulldogs outfit, which played two-thirds of the game without centre Marcelo Montoya after he injured his left knee in a collision with Broncos' fullback Anthony Milford.
In terms of the football, Broncos stars Tevita Pangai Jnr, David Fifita and Payne Haas all played key roles in the victory.
Kotoni Staggs and Corey Oates - his last a penalty try in the dying stages - grabbed a double each for the hosts with Jamayne Isaako also scoring, while Bulldogs' five-eighth Brandon Wakeham's first NRL try was the only consolation for the visitors.
Montoya attempted to play on after getting the knee strapped but barely hobbled 10 metres before being assisted off the field by two trainers with a medial ligament injury.
Bulldogs coach Dean Pay would have been fearing he'd lost another player a few minutes later when Corey Harawira-Naera copped a knee from Staggs while attempting to tackle the Bronco.
After a review by the bunker, Staggs was placed on report for lifting his knee. Harawira-Naera eventually carried on after confusion on the sideline over whether he was to receive a head injury assessment left the Bulldogs playing with just 12 players for a brief period.
Brisbane make the short trip to Gold Coast next week to take on the coach-less Titans while the Bulldogs tackle the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium.
- with AAP
Get your 14 day FREE trial of Kayo Sports and live stream the 2019 NRL Premiership Season. Every match of every round, live and on demand in HD on your TV or favourite device. Or catch up with Kayo Mini's the next morning.