Picture Credit: Caitlin Beevers (@CaitlinBeevers1)
For most of us, creating history is something we can only ever dream of.
But for Caitlin Beevers this is becoming something of a regularity as she did that twice last month – while still at school!
As well as focusing on her GCSEs, 16-year-old Caitlin has been writing her own name into the annals of rugby league, firstly by helping Leeds Rhinos to win the 2018 Challenge Cup in their first year of existence.
Having only been formed last September, Rhinos have slotted right in amongst the big names of the sport, already qualifying for the semi-final play-offs of this season’s with a game to spare.
But their highlight of the season so far has to be winning their first ever silverware by beating fellow newcomers Castleford Tigers 20-14 in a final streamed live on BBC Sport.
Not only did Beevers start that game, she scored one of her team’s tries as they edged out Tigers at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington to cap a remarkable first year in senior rugby in which she has played in several positions for Rhinos.
Her talents don’t just stop at playing the game though as last weekend she became the first woman to ever take charge of a rugby league fixture at Wembley Stadium as she refereed the Year 7 Champions Schools Boys’ Final.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post – whose full interview you can read here – Beevers said: “It felt unreal. We’ve done our research and it looks like, from all the finals Wembley has held, I am the first female to referee there.
“It has been great to see so many people taking an interest. I have had so many people messaging me, young girls to say I have inspired them to take the next level. I didn’t think it would be like that at all.”
While her playing ability and success with ball in hand is worthy of huge praise, in many ways the fact that she is trailblazing as an official is of greater importance to the promotion of equality.
Well yesterday was probably one of the best days of my life. Having the opportunity to officiate at Wembley is amazing in its self but being the first female to referee there feels absolutely unreal! Also a massive well done to the other officials, you were all amazing😊🏉 pic.twitter.com/nTBesAHGVi
— Caitlin Beevers (@CaitlinBeevers1) August 26, 2018
The growth of women’s sport has been fantastic in the last few years – particularly when it comes to the acceptance of female athletes and the number both participating and making a living from it – but there are still areas for improvement.
Coaching is certainly one area that needs to be targeted, with many more men in charge of our national teams than women, and so is officiating.
It is saddening that when entering search terms such as ‘female referees’ or similar on the Internet, many of the options that appear on our screens are pages or videos where officials have been rated on their attractiveness and nothing else.
But unfortunately these pages won’t be forced back into the depths of the web until female officials become a regular sighting not just in men’s games, but firstly women’s fixtures.
When it comes to the likes of football, it is still more common to see a man taking charge of a women’s game, while in other sports seeing a female official is incredibly rare, if not non-existent.
As has been proven when it comes to female participation in sport, young women will only be attracted to officiating if they have role models that they can copy and that is why Beevers’ achievements with whistle in hand are so important.
Fortunately it seems as though things are starting to improve though with a handful of female officials having made history recently, including Sian Massey-Ellis who has become a regular sight as an assistant referee in the Premier League.
Then there is Joy Neville, who became the first female referee to take charge of both a men’s European game in 2017 and then a men’s rugby union match in the UK earlier this year, overseeing a Pro14 clash because Ulster and Southern Kings.
Cricket is another sport where positive changes are happening, with Claire Polosak becoming the first woman to not only umpire an Australian men’s domestic game at the end of 2017, but also take charge of an England men’s game (a fixture against a CA XI) a few months later.
Former England player Sue Redfern MBE has also set history by becoming the first person to play and umpire in a World Cup, standing alongside Polosak, Kathy Cross and Jacqueline Williams at last year’s tournament in England.
Furthermore, Redfern and Williams were also the first women to take charge of an ICC men’s fixture as they oversaw a game between Oman and Nigeria, while the number of female umpires in this country continues to grow.
Beevers’ fellow rugby league player Tara Jones is another making waves in the men’s game, having been a touch judge in the Super League, and the St John Fisher pupil is hoping to emulate her in the future.
As well as being a history maker, Beevers is also proof that women’s sport really is changing in this country. Not only is she playing a game so long seen as being for male-only, she is also stepping into a role for so long seen as male-only.
She might only be a teenager, but Beevers is re-writing the scripts and proving that sport really is for all.