A WARRINGTON teenager was part of the first all-female officiating team to take charge at the opening game of rugby league’s Magic Weekend.

Esmai Wright, 15, was among the officials at St James’ Park in Newcastle as Magic Weekend was opened by the Year 10 Girls Champion Schools final between Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf and The Brooksbank School, Halifax.

“What an amazing experience,” said Esmai, one of the touch judges at the event.

“I never thought I’d get the chance to be part of such a massive event and help show the amazing players and people behind the women’s game.

“I was a little nervous before the whistle, but that soon settled down.

“Despite us all refereeing for a while, this has still felt like a real step up for us as officials and we look forward to officiating lots more games in the future.

“I hope that with more focus on the women’s game it will only grow from here. It’s great, and anyone wanting to give it a go as a player or referee should definitely contact their local club.”

Esmai did her referee's course in August 2021, and oversaw her first game not long after.

Just some of her achievements so far include winning Warrington Rugby League Referees Society young referee of the year 2022, refereeing the under 12s boys North West Cup Final last year, being a touch judge at the under 14s girls War of the Roses Final in 2022, the women’s open age plate final in 2023 and in Women's Super League.

Speaking about the Magic Weekend game, former Warrington Wolves back rower David Elliott, acting head of match officials for the RFL, said: “This was a special moment for some of our young female officials.

“The introduction of a women and girls programme this season has seen an influx of female officials.

“All six officials selected for this fixture are young women from across the UK who are on track to referee first-team rugby in the not-too-distant future.

“Historically the Champion Schools' final is the highest honour you can get as a referee when you’re under 18. Things are massively changing within rugby league, and we’ve gone from having a handful of female officials to around 65."

RFL chief executive Tony Sutton, who presented the girls with one-off engraved ACME Thunderer 58 Whistles said: “It is so important for us to recognise how far women’s refereeing has come in only a short space of time and we want to provide as many opportunities as possible for them to flourish and get them working towards refereeing some of the first-team games.”