NRL match official Kasey Badger is out for the season after suffering a herniated disc and now faces a journey through recovery.
While injury-related stories are focused heavily on players, the game’s officials are also managing their way back from the COVID-19 break.
Badger was in the gym as part of her training routine as a full-time referee when she suffered her back injury. An MRI has shown a herniated disc at L3-L5 level and is now being monitored to find out whether or not she will be required to undergo the knife later this year.
Injury or not, 2020 has been a whirlwind for Badger. She said from the shutdown to the game’s return, there was plenty going through the mind of the full-time refereeing squad – literally.
“Originally when we got shut down, we basically got put on six weeks leave. And in those weeks, it we had to do our best – the first couple of weeks none of us knew if and when we were coming back,” Badger said.
“I guess that phase started with no real return date, we all took gear from the gym where we are based and got going. The great thing was that we could go out and above to do some fitness sessions.
“We needed to make sure we were fit enough for the resumption of the season and we got to it. Then we got back, and it was like preseason 2.0.”
Then, suddenly, footy was back. May 28 came quickly and the NRL referees’ squad were primed and ready to go – new rule books in hand.
While the fitness levels were there, Badger said new rules and a late decision to go back to a one referee system threw a mental spanner in the works.
“That’s what was difficult, in the six weeks we didn’t have the chance to do anything in depth on the rules. When we started back at training, we didn’t know if we were going to be with one or two on field referees and the new rules from before the season, and of course the set restarts.
“A lot of training leading into the resumption, and even now, was talking about potential scenarios with our new rules. What would happen if XYZ and how we should apply rules in situations.
“The six to go rule was a big change for all of us and what we have done through our entire refereeing careers – we’re used to sticking our arm out for a penalty. If you think about it in terms of the captain’s challenge, moving scrum position, set restarts, and suddenly the referees have a lot of new information.
“Despite all of that, I think we’ve done pretty well.”