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EXCLUSIVE: NRL clubs quietly scrapping cheerleaders in PC-push

Several NRL clubs have quietly re-branded their cheerleaders in a politically-correct push to tone down pre-match entertainment.

The Broncos publicly dumped its cheerleaders prior to round one, replacing traditional uniforms with spandex and referring to them as a ‘dance squad’. Squad coach Jools Purchase said the change was brought in to “desexualise things”.

They follow the Raiders and Storm who have done away with cheer girls in recent years, replacing them with ‘community dance groups’ and ‘hip hop street crews’ respectively.

In 2007, South Sydney became the first NRL club to publicly scrap its cheerleaders after owner Russell Crowe claimed they made supporters feel “uncomfortable”.

Macquarie Sports Radio can reveal a number of other clubs, including the Gold Coast Titans and Wests Tigers, have quietly re-branded their cheerleaders to distance themselves from the traditional look.

Former captain of the Bulldogs cheer squad Darcie McDonald accused clubs who have overhauled their cheer squads of excluding women from rugby league.

“It’s a massive contradiction if we are trying to boost women in the game,” McDonald told Macquarie Sports Radio‘s Cam Reddin.

“Back in the day, they were the pinnacle. They were the first women to be part of the game. If we’re trying to boost womens’ profile in the game, why are we turning a blind eye to these girls?”

McDonald worked as a cheerleader for 5 years, including a stint as captain and team choreographer with the Bulldogs.

“In my year 6 yearbook, when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wrote ‘a Bulldogs cheerleader’. Who gets to live their childhood dream? I will never be ashamed of being a Bulldogs cheerleader,” McDonald said.

 

WHAT DOES YOUR CLUB SAY ABOUT ITS CHEERLEADERS?

BRISBANE BRONCOS

Re-branded their cheerleaders this season to “desexualise” the game.

CANBERRA RAIDERS

Scrapped cheerleaders in 2017 in favour of a “community dance competition” featuring local dance schools.

CANTERBURY BULLDOGS

Statement: “We believe there is a place to provide additional entertainment through dance performances for consumers during match day. We have an excellent relationship with the Sapphires, and we work together to ensure participants are reflective of our diverse community”.

CRONULLA SHARKS

Maintain full support of their cheerleaders, known as the Mermaids.

GOLD COAST TITANS

Re-branded their cheerleaders in 2019 to have a more athletic look and move away from the traditional cheerleader appearance. Will retain use of the term ‘cheerleaders’ and believe they are fantastic ambassadors for the club.

MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES

Statement: “The Sea Eagles are proud to continue to work with Monique Carroll and the Seabirds as our cheersquad leaders as they celebrate their 25th year in 2019.”

MELBOURNE STORM

Replaced cheerleaders with a “hip hop street team” in 2019.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS

Knights cheerleaders are a contracted service. The club would not comment on a potential re-brand.

NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS

Statement: “The Cowboys cheer team incorporates our pep squad, stunt team and cheer squad who feature in the club’s match-day program. This team of athletic performers are not only involved in on-field entertainment but are also active in the community as role models off-field”.

PARRAMATTA EELS

Statement: “We are progressing as normal for this season with the Eels cheerleaders”.

PENRITH PANTHERS

View their cheerleaders as athletes rather than dancers. Pantherettes cheerleaders wear active-wear as opposed to traditional cheerleading attire.

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS

Russell Crowe had the Rabbitohs scrap cheerleaders in 2007 because they made supporters feel “uncomfortable”.

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS

Declined to comment.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS

Did not offer comment.

NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS

Has not employed cheerleaders for at least the past two seasons. No reason provided.

WESTS TIGERS

Re-branded their cheer squad in 2018 to bring the format in line with cultural changes around equality and respect for women in sport. Males dancer are now included in the cheer squad, with traditional cheerleading attire making way for active-wear.

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