Ah Women In League Round. The chance to put on a few free lunches, make a few token gestures, and hope that it is enough to distract the wider community in regards to the terrible attitudes some within the sport have towards women.
After all, what better way to sooth the concerns of women than by patronising them once a year, pretending the game cares about them, then brushing them completely for the other 51 weeks of the year.
As always, this time of the year tosses up the same old questions. Not about violence against women. Not about how the game should respond to sexual assault claims. Not about the lack of women represented, not just on the boards of NRL clubs, but on the boards of football clubs at every level.
The big question is… Should the NRL still have cheerleaders?
You couldn’t make that up if you tried…
I always find it disturbing the way that some supposedly enlightened people within the game show their ignorance when it comes to cheerleaders. Their lack of understanding of the role, the work that goes into being a cheerleader, and the passion that cheerleaders have for the game.
Being a cheerleader is hard work! Not just anyone can walk in off the street and be a cheerleader.
Most cheerleaders have a dance or performing arts background. For some of them, their roles with NRL clubs are just one of the many outlets they have for the art that they have studied years to become so good at.
Cheerleaders have to go through tryouts to secure their role for a club. If they are not good at their job, they don’t make it. The role of an NRL cheerleader requires commitment and dedication. Just as players need to be physically fit to play, so too do cheerleaders, as an injured cheerleader can not fulfil the role on game day that they are required to do.
On top of the athletic side of the job, cheerleaders know that they are ambassadors for the club they represent. This isn’t just a part time giggle for them, they take this role seriously.
Many women who are cheerleaders for NRL clubs also take part in club activities such as promotions and charity events. Once again, it isn’t just about turning up on game day and shaking pom poms, this is a role that requires a lot of commitment.
If you have ever spoken to a cheerleader about their role at a club it is clear that they love what they do. They have a passion for their performance and for their role within a club. They love to be able to interact with supporters of all ages, they love that in some ways they are one of the closest connections between the club and it’s supporter base.
I always find it sad when some people demean the role of cheerleaders to try and score points with others who are looking to create a utopian, politically correct society. In an effort to show we care about women in Rugby League we are supposed to stop some of the games biggest supporters from showing their support for the game in a way they truly love….for their own good!
It is absolutely ridiculous!
Has anyone bothered to ask cheerleaders what they want? Can we maybe stop for a second and ask these WOMEN in LEAGUE what they want for themselves?
I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that if you told cheerleaders they are being sacked because we respect women in league, they would all be completely devastated!
Women In League round is supposed to be about embracing ALL the roles that women have within our game. It isn’t about enforcing ridiculous stereotypes on women who perform at games on a weekly basis.
I find it particularly galling when women in management roles within the NRL and it’s clubs talk about the way cheerleaders are dressed or moving away from “stereotypes” that they ironically are enforcing by making such statements.
Many people focus on the way some cheerleader teams dress, forgetting that the outfits they wear are usually put together with the consultation of the cheerleaders themselves. Some people should try and do a cheerleading routine in a pants suit and see how well they go compared to what cheerleaders choose to wear.
So the next time anyone starts to attack Rugby League cheerleaders, ask yourself what these woman in Rugby League want themselves. They love the game and they have a passion for what they do.
Surely that in itself is something to celebrate during women in league round. A round that is meant to celebrate the roles women have in Rugby League, not deride the ones a tiny minority have problems with for their own personal reasons.