Two New Zealanders - experienced NRL referee and former Vodafone Warrior Henry Perenara plus Chris McMillan - have been included in a 26-strong squad of match officials for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
Another Kiwi Luke Watts is included in the support staff for the squad.
For the first time all officials are drawn from the NRL or Super League competitions only.
In another first, Belinda Sleeman is set to become the first woman appointed to a World Cup fixture after being included in the squad chosen by RLWC2017 head of officiating Tony Archer and RLWC2017 match officials coach Steve Ganson.
The match officials will act as the tournament’s 15th team and, like the players representing each of the 14 nations, they will go into camp together in Brisbane for the duration of RLWC2017, which begins in Melbourne on October 27 when Australia plays England.
They will have their own performance manager, a physiotherapist, a logistics and operations manager and three coaches – Ganson from England, Australia’s Russell Smith and New Zealand’s Luke Watts – working under Archer.
In a further recognition of their role, Youi has extended its relationship with NRL match officials by becoming an official partner of RLWC2017, with brand integration through the referees’ on-field apparel at all 40 matches in the men’s and women’s tournaments to be played in 13 cities across Australia, New Zealand and PNG.
Among the match officials selected for the tournament are NRL grand final referees Matt Cecchin and Gerard Sutton, and review official Bernard Sutton.
James Childs, who refereed last weekend’s Super League grand final, will also be officiating at the World Cup along with video referee Phil Bentham and touch judges Mark Craven and Chris Kendall.
“This is an historic tournament in which all match officials, announced today, qualified by officiating in either the NRL or Super League competitions,” saud Archer.
“I have worked closely with my counterpart Steve Ganson and the other coaching staff to select the group. We have the grand final officials from each competition as part of the squad.
“Their selections are a result of each individual’s strong performances throughout the 2017 domestic season and there is a wealth of international and representative depth in the squad.
“This is a great opportunity for match officials at the elite international rugby league level to come together as one and I am confident they will perform very well.”
Archer said the performances of the match officials during the tournament would determine who was appointed to the World Cup final in Brisbane on December 2.
There will be some key differences to the way NRL matches are officiated, with World Cup games controlled by one referee – not two – and an in-goal video referral system replacing the Bunker for checking contentious decisions.
There will also be no shot clock for scrums and goal lines drop outs but common rules used in Super League and the NRL will be in operation, including a seventh tackle from the 20-metre re-start if the ball is kicked dead and a tap re-start from a 40:20 kick. Golden point will only be used in finals matches.
RLWC2017 | MATCH OFFICIALS
RLWC2017 | OFFICIATING SUPPORT STAFF
Tony Archer - Head of Officiating
Laura Dein - Match Officials Logistics and Operations Manager
Steve Ganson - Match Officials Coach
Matt Jeffriess - Match Officials Performance Manager
Michelle Minichiello - Match Officials Physiotherapist
Russell Smith - Match Officials Coach
Luke Watts - Match Officials Coach