NRL: Excluding cheerleaders only excludes women from the game

Former Bulldogs’ cheer captain and now ‘Big League’ journalist Darcie McDonald, has slammed select NRL clubs who have culled their cheerleaders, as the politically correct stance is excluding women from rugby league.


The controversy began in 2007, when South Sydney owner and celebrity Russell Crowe, decided to axe his cheerleading squad because he believed they made people feel uncomfortable.

McDonald feels cheerleaders have been demonised and has rubbished Crowe’s claims, saying it’s a “massive contradiction” for the NRL when they’re trying to boost female participation in all areas of rugby league.

“Back in the day, they (cheerleaders) were the pinnacle. They were the first women to be part of the game. If we’re trying to boost women’s profile in the game, why are we turning a blind eye to these girls”? McDonald told Macquarie Sports Radio.

South Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and now Brisbane have replaced cheerleaders with ‘dance squads’ in an effort to ‘desexualise’ the game.

However there are questions as to who is actually sexualising the cheerleaders, are fans actually complaining or is this simply an effort from clubs to display cheerleaders in a bad light in order to claim supposed moral high ground by making a social justice – politically correct statement?

Despite the controversy, North Queensland Cowboys are one of a few clubs who continue to fully support and promote their cheerleaders.


In December, they announced their major partners, Tropic Petroleum have joined the ‘Cowboys Spirit’ cheersquad as presenting partners for 2019.

Each Cowboys Spirit cheerleader has their own biography on the clubs website, they are promoted in local news media and are proud to perform in front of home crowds.

To be a cheerleader, you must be at least 18 years-of-age, however the Cowboys have now introduced a ‘pep squad’ for 16 and 17-year-old’s who dream of becoming a Cowboys Spirit cheerleader and will now have the opportunity to perform next to the Spirit cheersquad on the field.

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There is a high level of professionalism within the Cowboys Spirit team. Cheersquad members have extensive experience in dancing, ballet and gymnastics. Many hours of training and preparation goes into each routine and each performer needs to be athletically and physically fit to execute their part in each performance.

The Cowboys go on to add in an official statement that Spirit cheersquad performers are not only involved in on-field entertainment but are also active in the community as role models off-field and act as ambassadors for the club at corporate and charity events.


It’s important to acknowledge that cheerleading is a sport in its own right and perhaps more education is needed for people to truly understand what cheerleading is all about.

Clubs that have abandoned their cheerleaders obviously haven’t kept up with the fact that cheerleading is so much more than the superficial image and stereotype that cheerleaders are only attractive girls shaking their pompoms.

They are athletes. They are incredibly talented. They work together as a team. They are role models to girls and boys who dream to perform and most importantly, they are proud of who they are and what they do.

Yet some clubs are happy to take that away from them and exclude them from the game.  

Featured Image: Eva Rinaldi