TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 05: Cowgirls cheerleaders perform before the start of the round one NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Cronulla Sharks at 1300SMILES Stadium on March 5, 2016 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Do cheerleaders still have a place in the modern game?

News broke during the week that the Canberra Raiders were going to become the latest NRL side to remove cheerleaders from their pre-match and halftime entertainment.

The move follows similar policies being installed by clubs such as the Rabbitohs, who famously replaced their cheerleaders with drummers.

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At the time the move was both welcomed and mocked in equally large numbers and the jury will forever be out on what, if anything, was achieved by the move.

The Raiders will replace the pre-match entertainment provided by the girls by inviting groups of dancers from local schools and academies.

The thinking behind the move is simple; they hope that families of the youngsters dancing at any given game will come along to watch, fall in love with the Raiders, and become members.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 24: Sharks cheerleaders line up before the round eight NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Penrith Panthers at Southern Cross Group Stadium on April 24, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Similar strategies have been employed by clubs such as the Eels and Sharks for many years, with some success.

The aforementioned move to replace pre-match cheer routines and dances with the hitting of canvas with sticks was introduced by Souths under the belief that pretty, young girls dancing somehow made people feel uncomfortable.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should disclose that I am a thirty-year-old, heterosexual male, who has never been made to feel uncomfortable by such dancing.

The move by the Raiders poses the question, do the cheer squads have a place in modern NRL?

After all, this isn’t the NFL, and these aren’t professional cheer squads meticulously put together to aid both fan engagement and marketing strategies on a national and international level.

Has the existence of cheerleaders ever inspired a team to victory?

Would the NRL cease to exist if the Seabirds, Mermaids or Flames stopped dancing at halftime during NRL fixtures?

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 02: Storm cheerleaders perform before the 2016 NRL Grand Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Of course not, but kids would still turn up to games if clubs stopped providing face painting, and adults would continue to support their team if clubs stopped merchandising jerseys also.

Yet all three are fun aspects of the overall NRL game day experience and should remain just that.

First and foremost these are hardworking women who are employed by their clubs to both entertain and help promote their clubs.

How often do you see the Cronulla Mermaids walking the Arcades in the shire, promoting the team whilst the players train?

The Cowgirls have been an integral part of marketing and promotion up north for many years.

How often do members of the Pantherettes appear in local advertising out Penrith way?

To most, the cheerleaders are just eye candy to provide entertainment to fill the minutes before kickoff, and at halftime.

In reality, they are out there promoting their team in the bitter cold prior to kick off. They’re posing for photos with young kids, they’re selling tickets to help fund junior league programs.

SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES – OCTOBER 02: Jnr Sharks fans at Southern Cross Group Stadium with the Sharks Cheerleaders to watch the 2016 NRL Grand Final on October 2, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

Hell, sometimes they’re the ones taking your mind off the fact your team is down by 18 points and can’t hold the ball.

The fact is, they work hard.

The fact is, they’re fun. They’re an important and FUN part of the game day experience, and to suggest they be removed from NRL-wide game day activities is laughable.

I’ve never felt uncomfortable by their existence. Neither has my wife, my daughter, my mother, or anyone else I have ever spoken to, ever.

I fully support the efforts by the Raiders to engage young people in the local community, but why does it have to come at the cost of jobs of those formerly employed by the club?

Perhaps it is a cost cutting measure?

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 10: Panthers cheerleaders perform before the round two NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Pepper Stadium on March 10, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

That said, considering the clubs spend ridiculous money on printing face masks that end up littering the hills after the one fixture they’re printed for, I don’t think NRL sides are leading the charge when it comes to championing savings accounts.

I don’t know the reasons behind the decision in Canberra, but some of the suggestions that cheerleaders are no longer part of the game day experience are complete rubbish.

If you’re OK supporting a code that has produced some of the most ridiculous headlines in recent journalistic times, a code that promotes grown men throwing each other into the ground with force, yet you draw the line at young women dancing in skirts on a cold Saturday Night, then I don’t know what to tell you.


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