Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Darcie McDonald, NRL Reporter for Fox Sports
Darcie McDonald is currently working as an NRL reporter for Fox Sports. Darcie has led an exciting career so far, where her first look into Rugby League clubs came from her time as a Bulldog Cheerleader. Medianet sat down with her to chat about her unique pathway into sports journalism and following her childhood dream.
You’re currently working as an NRL reporter for Fox Sports, what does a normal day look like for you?
I spend three days a week in our digital team where every day is different, and it's all dependent on what the news cycle is doing. So you might have plans to hook into an analytical deep dive story, and then a big story might break about a player's release, re-signing or injury. Then you have to drop everything and jump onto whatever is breaking.
In my other two days, I spend one preparing for sideline and the other on sideline. Which means going through the stat pack from our Fox Sports Lab team, doing research and making notes on as many players as possible.
On game days, I head to the office for hair and makeup and then I get out to the game a good two hours before, do any last-minute prep or pregame interviews, and then basically watch the footy and finish up with a press conference.
Have you always wanted to be a sports journalist?
Yeah I have. I grew up as a mad rugby league fan and I always knew I wanted to be working in rugby league. Back then, there weren't many visible female journalists, they were all men. So I loved the cheerleaders when I was a kid because they were the only females that I could see involved with the game.
I did cheerleading throughout school, then at uni I did a media and communications degree, and because it had so many facets to it, it covered me in a lot of possible career paths. While I was at uni, I thought, you know what, I love writing, I love talking about footy, I think that is the career path I should go down. Since there were so few female journos at the time, I thought it was going to be too hard to break into, but I just started chugging along, and haven't stopped chugging since.
How has the sports journalism industry changed since you began your career?
Oh, so much. I think back to my first year at uni in 2013, and I'm pretty sure I was the only girl in our entire media and communications degree at Wollongong Uni that wanted to do sports journalism. Now, I get lots of messages from girls at uni that are wanting to pursue sports journalism, so I know that in that sense, the industry has changed heaps.
In terms of the media industry, my first journalism job was at Big League magazine, which was only in 2018, so it's really not that long ago. I would go into the press box and it would be mainly men in print media. A lot of the females did more so the on-air stuff, but in terms of the writing, it was mainly men in the press box. Now, there’s a lot more young females coming out of uni that actually want to write as well. It's not so much the case anymore that females just get pinned into doing TV, and males get pinned into writing.
In your opinion, do you think that female journalists play a particular role in promoting gender equality in the sports media industry?
Yeah, definitely. For every positive comment and for every person that loves reading a female journo's article or loves watching a female journo on television, there's always someone that's still stuck in the olden days where they think footy is for boys.
So I think as female journos, it's up to us to know our work, know our footy and work hard. So that when we are given these opportunities, we can continue to break that stigma and open more eyes to the fact that you don't have to be a guy to be able to talk footy, know footy and ask the tough questions.
Do you think your time as a cheerleader for the NRL shaped your experience or shaped your approach to sports journalism?
It gave me an insight into how clubland works, so I got to know what a head office for an NRL club looks like and how the different departments operate. I've also been able to meet players before becoming a journalist, so I've created relationships and friendships without the pressure of them thinking that I'm just trying to get a story out of them. Which was all part of my pathway into journalism, and is what made me fall in love with the game so much and made me never want to leave it.
It must've been an interesting transition going from cheerleader to then writing stories about the people that you've been friends with, and surrounded by for so long.
Absolutely. I've interviewed players before who know me from cheerleading, and I think sometimes they find it crazy that I was on the sideline dancing, since there's a really negative stigma around cheerleaders. So they can find it quite shocking that now I’m there asking them a really difficult question about a left side play or something, and they're like, ‘what?’
I've always been really proud of my background in cheerleading, it was my literal childhood dream. It was in my year six yearbook when I was asked, ‘what do you wanna be when you grow up?’ I said, ‘a Bulldog Cheerleader’. Which is just surreal, how many people can say they got to live out their childhood dream?
How do you think we can improve the visibility of women in sport?
I think it's just opening doors in every possible area. For me at Fox, it doesn't matter if you're male or female, if you can do the job, then you've got the job.
In my digital team I'm the only female writer, but I've never felt marginalised or anything like that. My opinion matters just as much as the guy next to me, so I think it's just understanding that we're all writing about and reporting on the same game.
Behind the scenes, there's so many different levels in terms of what goes into a broadcast. There's directors, producers and whatnot, and at Fox, there's females at every single level, and I think that's the right way to go about it.
From what I’ve seen, the investment into the women’s league is definitely there. So if anything, I'd love to see more male journalists covering the women's game, and there are heaps out there, but there's still some that see it as something that they don't really need to be an expert on. The reality is that the game is growing and a rugby league journalist can't just be an expert on NRL, they need to be an expert on NRLW as well.
Do you have a favourite moment from your career so far?
I do, I’ve probably got two, but my very first day on sideline was really special. It was New South Wales Cup, and I remember being so insanely nervous. I can remember everything from what I ate that day, what I wore, and what the weather was like.
It was really special because just by chance my partner was playing that game, and it was his first game as captain, so it was a really special day for us. Our whole family came out to watch and it was a really big win. They had a great game and we were both buzzing afterwards, we'd both kind of ticked off these really cool goals. I'll never forget that.
Oh, that's so sweet. You can't write that.
Yeah I know, that's the first one that stuck. Just by chance too, you couldn't have scripted it better. It was awesome.
Do you have any advice to young women who are interested in pursuing careers in sports journalism and maybe they're intimidated by the fact that it is such a male dominated industry?
Just be aware that there is a lot of hard work that goes into it, and that's not gender specific, everyone has to work their butts’ off.
If you're intimidated and you're a little unsure of yourself, which is totally natural, if you've done your homework, you'll be fine. Back yourself, and a lot of it comes down to confidence.
The industry’s open to having more females. You've just gotta prove that you can do it.