12th October 2017, 16:55 | referee

Meet Bianca Zietsman, the Cardiff referee who's heading to the Rugby League World Cup

Meet Bianca Zietsman, the Cardiff referee who's heading to the Rugby League World Cup

Bianca Zietsman only made her Rugby League debut last year, but has already progressed to officiate in the Welsh Premier Division, while taking charge of matches in the Kingstone Press National Conference League.

She is a sports chiropractor whose route to Rugby League Officiating has been different to most, starting at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

Here is her story:

"I started out with my PhD, looking at neck function in elite athletes. My professor, who's from Manchester, said we've done union, so why don't we look at Rugby League? So I thought 'why not?'

"The Australian team were across for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and I ended up working with them. I didn't know much about Rugby League - and little did I know they were one of the best teams in the world!

"Their team doctor gave me some tickets and asked me to come across to watch the semis and final.

"It was at that point I just absolutely fell in love with the sport.

"I got involved with London Broncos the year after - I was just doing matchday stats for them.

"I'd been trying to get involved in refereeing for years, but one of the Welsh Rugby League refs saw me refereeing some 7s and he asked if I'd like to come across to league. I said 'yeah, I'll give it a go' and it's just gone on from there.

"I'd been refereeing touch rugby for 18 years, but April 2016 was my first game of Rugby League. I refereed East Wales v West Wales under 18s, then ran the line for the Open Age match later that day.

"I really enjoy being a referee. I come from a playing background, and to be able to facilitate a game safely, and seeing the players enjoy themselves gives me a lot of enjoyment.

"Watching the 2013 World Cup made me want to be part of Rugby League - but I never thought it would be as a referee!

"I'm a sports chiropractor, so I was thinking I could be part of a team in the World Cup, helping with recovery. But going to a historic Women's Rugby League World Cup as a referee is a huge honour.

"The buzz around Rugby League and the attitude of everyone involved is amazing.

"Right from the start, when I went to the Match Officials conference, I thought 'this is phenomenal - I'm in the right sport here.'

"I'm just going to enjoy the World Cup and try to learn as much as I possibly can.

"The Women's Rugby League World Cup is massive for female sport. It's monumental. I know all the women have worked so hard to get to this stage and I just can't wait to be involved.

"Refereeing is my passion.

"I just want to be the best I can be and hopefully going to the World Cup and helping these amazing women enjoy their games will just be the next chapter of my journey."

Zietsman has been drafted in as one of seven Match Officials who will take charge of Women's Rugby League World Cup matches.