I am typing this as I watch the AFL Grand Final between Hawthorn and Sydney. On my Tweet stream, sophisticated, fashion forward female friends are tweeting about the wine they will be drinking whilst watching the game. There are female umpires awarding goals and mums sat with their family in the crowd supporting their beloved team as they strive for AFL’s biggest prize. The same will happen tomorrow for the NRL grand final granted, but the numbers will be less. Rugby League you see is more of a bloke’s game.
NRL is the kind of game that tolerates and holds up people like Matthew Johns as role models and is also the game that still has young women dancing, poorly in most cases, at games in skimpy outfits despite the weather often being bitterly cold.
Why does the NRL persist with this? The dancing quality is typically poor, even if individually they can dance competently. However, it definitely isn’t a dancing or performance spectacle like the cheerleader performances (made up typically of man and women) in the US.
Cheerleading isn’t shown on the TV, so it can’t be considered a vital part of securing all important TV rights.
Hell even if male titillation at the game could be justified, when they’re performing the cheerleaders are so far away it is impossible without binoculars to see them clearly. When they’re not dancing they are wrapped in blankets and jackets, so no opportunity for leering there either.
Is reason for them being present? Their presence reinforces that NRL is a game just for blokes. A game for yobs. A game for people that think women wearing skimpy outfits performing poorly choreographed routines is entertainment.
I say yes. I say cheerleaders do have a place at the NRL and could in fact be a core part of engaging women with NRL.
If it was up to me cheergirls wouldn’t be 16-22 years of age they would be between the ages of 5-15. They would not be the same group week in and week out, but instead be made up of rotating groups of ballet and dance troupes from local communities.
Mum, Nana and non yob dads would attend games to see their little girls perform. The little girls would have the opportunity to dance in front of big crowds of appreciative crowds. Though most importantly the NRL would have a proof point for how it is making game experiences more about women.
What do you think? Would it work?
Image credit reepy_au