On a cold winter’s day in June 1979, footy fans watched the top-placed Blues take on the third-placed Magpies at Princes Park. By all accounts, it was a memorable match. Bruce Doull was reported for striking Phil Manassa, Alex Jesaulenko got knocked out by Collingwood’s Stan Magro, and the Carlton Bluebirds made their debut appearance.

Carlton Bluebirds. By photographer Rennie Ellis. This work is in copyright; H2010.108/230

Clad in blue lycra leotards and white knee-high leather boots, the Carlton Bluebirds comprised a squad of around twenty professional dancers, ranging in age from mid teens to their early twenties. From 1979 until their demise in the eighties, the Bluebirds added a touch of glamour and excitement to Carlton home games. The crowd loved the Bluebirds’ sky high leg kicks, their cheeky dance routines, and dedicated pom pom waving.

Carlton Bluebirds : first V.F.L cheer squad [female]. By photographer Rennie Ellis. This work is in copyright; H2010.108/213 

Former Bluebird Pauline Musell (nee Leslie) was just 14 years old when she joined the Bluebirds – the youngest of the group. She told The Age in 2012: ‘I got this job and I was the coolest kid. It was very good for my popularity.’ [1]

Another former Bluebird, Elizabeth Loft, also remembers the dance troupe fondly:

‘I still have people say how they couldn’t wait for the bluebirds to come on. This makes you realise some people must have enjoyed it. I did give some autographs and lots of waves …’ [2]

Carlton Bluebirds (Fosters). By photographer Rennie Ellis. This work is in copyright; H2010.108/993 

Before long, the popularity of the Bluebirds had grown such that they were making guest appearances at shopping centres and events. They even starred in their own video clip and 45 recording, performing the hit songs ‘Everlasting Love’ and ‘Only You Can Do It’.

Carlton Bluebirds cheering on the sidelines. By photographer Rennie Ellis. This work is in copyright; H2010.108/1008

Not to be outdone, other clubs introduced their own cheerleading squads to the game. Richmond’s Tigerettes, Adelaide’s Crowettes, West Coast’s Eaglettes and Sydney’s Swanettes all kicked up their heels at their clubs’ home games. But in Melbourne at least, Carlton’s Bluebirds reigned supreme.

It was not all smooth sailing for the Bluebirds though. On May 27, in 1980, the Bluebirds had their dance routine cut by half when hundreds of spectators mobbed them during half-time of a Carlton-Essendon game at the SCG.

Carlton Bluebirds performing on the ground. By photographer Rennie Ellis. This work is in copyright; H2010.108/994  

The Canberra Times reported that the girls were exposed to ‘physical molesting, obscene language, threats and anti-social behaviour.’ Carlton’s general manager, Jim Allison, said: ‘When the girls came off the ground they were visibly upset. Some of them were crying and had to be sedated by a doctor travelling with the Carlton team … In Melbourne they have never been subjected to this sort of embarrassment’.

The Carlton Bluebirds were eventually disbanded in 1987 due to a lack of funding.

 Cath Adams shoots out a handpass to teammate, Bronwyn Hutchinson. By photographer Ian Kennins. This work is in copyright; H2010.108/994  

Now and then a Bluebird pops up in a newspaper article for a reprise of the glory days, but these days you’re more likely to see young women pulling on a pair of footy boots than a skimpy cheerleaders’ leotard. The Bluebirds, it seems, are well and truly extinct.

women's football 2

Not what you usually see footballers taking off after a game. By photographer Ian Kennins. This work is in copyright; H2001.306/9   


[1]Marshall, K.  ‘I was there. The bluebirds debut at Princes Park,’ 31 August 2012, Melbourne Magazine, p. 26.

[2] Sanderson, J. ‘Hello Bluebird’, 19 May 2008, Blueseum: online Carlton Football Club museum







This article has 1 comment

  1. How lucky is Melbourne to have such a fabulous collection of photography from Rennie Ellis – and a
    lovely piece of football trivia – what fun!

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