home Interview, Rugby League, Women in Sport Media From one dream to the next: Darcie McDonald’s path to the sideline

From one dream to the next: Darcie McDonald’s path to the sideline

Darcie McDonald grew up dreaming of being a cheerleader. But it wasn’t her only dream. Mary Konstantopoulos spoke with Darcie about her path to the sideline.  

Growing up, Darcie McDonald had a dream. She wanted nothing more than to be a cheerleader in the NRL.

“I remember being young, really young when I first started watching rugby league, because my mum would still dress me for games to make sure I was warm enough,” said McDonald.

“I didn’t understand rugby league when I first started going so I purely went to watch the cheerleaders. 

“I would fall asleep in the first half and then my parents would wake me at half-time so that I could watch them before falling asleep again in the second half.”

McDonald spent most of her formative years spending between 10 and 15 hours a week at dance lessons, so it is no surprise that at age 18, McDonald achieved her goal when she became a cheerleader for the Canterbury Bulldogs.

But McDonald’s connection to rugby league didn’t stop at cheerleading. After achieving her first dream, she focused on something else: becoming a journalist and doing sideline during rugby league matches.

Whilst McDonald only realised this when she went to university and started studying journalism, she has an inkling that the seed may have been planted much earlier.

“I remember being in year six and putting myself forward to be part of the school talent quest,” said McDonald. “I pulled people together from my grade to do ‘The Footy Show’. Naturally I was Paul Vautin because I wanted to host.

“I look back now and reflect—I always wanted to do this.”

But it was tough. After graduating from university in 2015, McDonald realised how hard it was to get into sports journalism.

“I applied for every possible position that there was,” said McDonald. “There were so many tears, I had so many doubts and I just kept wondering why I was chasing this dream.”

Then McDonald made a decision to pick a company she wanted to work for and apply for any position available. This led to McDonald working at reception at Fox Sports.

But whilst McDonald was working at reception, she pushed herself to seek out other opportunities too. She approached the digital team and asked if she could start writing articles for the internal website in her spare time. That led to a weekly opportunity to do some writing. She also spoke to Fox Sports News and asked if she could come into work prior to her reception shits and learn the autocue. That meant McDonald would run the autocue from 5am-8am, then do her shift on reception. She also wanted to learn digital video producing so would come in on the weekend to get additional training on the digital video unit.

It meant some very long hours and plenty of additional work, but for McDonald it was worth it.

“My core job was reception, but I used it as an opportunity to get my foot in the door,” said McDonald.

“I put my finger in as many pies as possible, made plenty of connections and built up the experience so when a job did come up, I knew I would have more experience and knowledge to put forward.”

From there, McDonald landed a job at Big League Magazine and then made a decision to take some time away from sports journalism to work at Foxtel. But she missed the thrill and adrenaline of live sport. So when a chance opportunity came up for McDonald to present the trophies at the Dally M Awards, she used that opportunity to reach out to Steve Crawley at Fox Sports and ask for an opportunity.

“I said I wanted back in and that I would start anywhere and do anything,” said McDonald.

That led to a role in the Fox Sports Digital team, but McDonald also made it clear that she was interested in doing sideline for NSW Cup. 

“I knew I had to prove myself in the digital role before I would get that opportunity,” said McDonald.

But after a couple of months in her digital role, McDonald was given the opportunity to do sideline for NSW Cup. Unfortunately, that opportunity was due to eventuate during the 2020 season when the NSW Cup season was cancelled. McDonald had to wait until this year to make her sideline debut. And she loved it.

“I used to sit on reception at Fox Sports and wonder whether that would ever be me amongst the action and now it is,” said McDonald. “I love the thrill and the adrenaline rush of following the highs and lows of a rugby league match right next to the bench.”

“I also have a real soft spot for NSW Cup given that so many of the players are part-time and have to juggle their rugby league with a full-time job.”

Whilst McDonald acknowledges that she still has a lot to learn, she aspires to do sideline for an NRL game in future or take part in one of Fox Sport’s panel shows. But for now, she is challenging herself to reflect on her hard work until this point and understand that it isn’t luck that has gotten her here.

“You never take that moment to sit back and reflect on how much work I have done to get to this point,” said McDonald. “For so long I thought about how lucky and grateful I am to be in this place, but I need to take that moment and realise it’s a lot more than luck that has got me here.”

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