Canterbury Bulldogs tame their cheerleaders

Last updated 16:11 10/12/2013
Canterbury Bulldogs cheerleaders
Getty Images
SKIMPY SHIELAS: A Bulldogs cheerleader dances ahead of Canterbury's clash with North Queensland last season.

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The Canterbury Bulldogs decision to downsize their cheerleaders' exposure on game day has been met with widespread approval, though inevitably some supporters have their knickers in a twist.

Predictably the Bulldogs' Kiwi chief executive Raelene Castle has bore the brunt of the adverse reaction as members of "The Belles" lobby for their retention through an online petition.

The Bulldogs recently ended their association with the dance studio contracted to devise and perform routines for the pre-match and halftime break at NRL games - from 2014 onwards the focus will be on girls undertaking off-field promotional duties.

Interviews for a new intake are expected to take place soon and although Castle said the women would still perform routines at the match venue, uniforms would be designed for individual occasions and not be as revealing as traditional outfits.

Castle, who became the NRL's only female club CEO when she joined the Bulldogs from Netball New Zealand this year, said community visits, corporate entertainment and furthering their education would be greater priorities for the women.

"We want to go in a more professional direction, where they do more than just dance in revealing outfits,'' Castle told The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

"They'll still be doing cheerleading at the game, they will still have pompoms, but we're going to give them more opportunities as well.

"A big part of that is bringing the girls in-house and employing them directly through the club."

Castle said the tag "cheerleader" was likely to be phased out as the club preferred the women to be regarded as club ambassadors.

An online petition to "Save the Belles" has drawn several hundred responses while "The Kennel" fan forum for Bulldogs' supporters emphasised how opinion was divided.

"It's a shame the powers at be don't recognise the skill and effort that goes into cheerleading. Maybe they think a woman's role is not to be seen but rather working in the canteen," posted Deimus.

"These are the kind of decisions you can expect when a female is running the show," added Bad Billy.

However, El Magic was supportive: "I don't really see cheerleading playing a big part in our game anyway. In American sports they're a big deal but here they're not really focused on anyway."

South Sydney are the only NRL club without cheerleaders and Bulldogs diehard Robbie Fowler could appreciate their bitter rivals' logic.

"Who cares about cheerleaders? I watch the footy for the footy."

On Twitter Castle's move was welcomed as progressive.

"Good on Raelene Castle for changing the image of the Bulldogs cheerleaders. Very pleased," wrote @alicevictoria19

"Cheers Bulldogs and thank you Raelene Castle. If only my team followed,'' lamented @kelliejane

Meanwhile, Rissolebob was not alone in hoping "the money they will save through this will be put towards buying a fullback" to replace Ben Barba.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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