Whistlestop tour ... Gavin Badger. Photo: Getty Images
THE Rugby League International Federation has refused to sanction dual referees for this week's Australia versus New Zealand Test, but possibly the first husband-and-wife officiating team in the history of world sport will control an international eight days later.
The Herald has learnt NRL official Gavin Badger and his wife Kasey have been appointed to the Thailand versus the Philippines match at Bangkok's Royal Thai Police Stadium on Sunday, October 21.
Gavin Badger went to school with the coach and founder of the Thai Rugby League, Andrew Charles. Unless the RLIF intervenes, they will control the entire 80 minutes together, a domestic set-up that was vetoed for Saturday's more high-profile match at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
''Aside from going to school with Gavin, I know Kasey from when I was coaching in Harold Mathews and S.G. Ball,'' Charles said.
''Gavin has helped me out in the past, and I invited him to come and do the game. He agreed - and then asked if Kasey could also do it. We approved it. It will be two referees, just like the NRL.''
The Badgers met while refereeing, and this year Kasey made the step up to controlling the under-20s Toyota Cup. ''I think if he does something I think is wrong, he'll be able to tell just by the way I glare at him,'' Kasey Badger said.
''It's a great opportunity for me to referee under the two-ref system for the first time … People have always wondered when we would referee together. Well, now it's going to happen. I had no hesitation in saying yes.
''Because it's not a Test match, it's just an international, my understanding is that it's OK to have two refs. It's up to the countries to appoint the refs - as long as they both agree.''
The Philippines side on Sunday week will include NRL stars Andrew Everingham, Matt Srama and Kevin Gordon while Thailand will boast some lower-grade talent from Australia as well as local union players.
It is the first serious international for both teams - and Charles reckons it's the first ever held in Asia.
Because Thailand and the Philippines are not full members of the RLIF, it is likely they are not governed by the same strict protocols in terms of refereeing appointments
The ARL Commission had applied to the RLIF for two referees this weekend, on the basis that all players were from the NRL. The request was denied, with the federation believing it was important for all internationals to be played under the same rules.
Some observers, including Australian back-rower Paul Gallen, have called for a return to a single-referee system as a solution to a poor year for match officials in the NRL.