History-making rugby league official Tara Jones has revealed how top referees deal with the abuse they receive and the challenges she has faced as a female official in the men’s game.

In the second episode of an exclusive podcast series from the mental fitness charity State of Mind Sport, Jones discusses the hurdles she has overcome to become the first woman to referee a senior professional game in the northern hemisphere, having already made history as a player by scoring the first ever try in a women’s Challenge Cup Final at Wembley for her club St Helens.

The England international opens up on the mental strength required to both play and referee at the top level, and admits there were times when she believed she was not strong enough to carry on in the job.

“I got some real bad abuse when I was refereeing and I walked off the field and thought why would I want to do this?,” says Jones.

“I was going to quit but the other team manager came over and said ‘we really hope we see you continue’ and that gave me that confidence boost that it was an isolated incident and I needed to get back on it and get another game under my belt. I had my family around me, spoke to the referees’ society and some of the older officials who had helped me come through.

“Sometimes when people see a female referee in a men’s professional game they are taken aback and might question whether I am good enough. I like to prove to people that I am, so at the end of the game when I have changed their opinion I really like that and I am glad that people can be open and can change their opinion.

“Some people are dinosaurs and can’t change their opinion but generally people are supportive. I hope I can continue to change the perception that it doesn’t matter who you are in the middle, as long as you are good enough to do the job then you will be appointed to do it.”

In an enlightening and wide-ranging podcast, Jones reinforces points made by leading Super League official Liam Moore in episode one, with Moore having laid bare the reality of the abuse match officials are targeted with both on social media and at games.

“Some of these people online, could you actually take the whistle and give it a go yourself because you are giving out so much abuse towards match officials? If they actually gave it a go they would realise how tough it is and how strong a person you have to be to be the person in the middle of the pitch making these decisions and ultimately be the person that people are shouting at for making those decisions. Those people sat behind a keyboard should probably give it a go to realise how mentally tough us individuals have to be.”

SOM Talks: Referees is the brand new series from award-winning mental health and fitness charity State of Mind Sport.

Hosted by George Riley, each episode explores themes in line with the unique challenges faced by our match officials both on and off the field.

Our previous series – SOM Talks: Transitions, featured six powerful tales of mental health challenges associated with major life and career changes and remains available to listen to.

SOM Talks is available on all major podcast platforms.