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Just go for it: Emily hoping to inspire next generation

They’re the frontline support for the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys at every home game, but there’s much more to the Cowboys Spirit than their high energy performances on the main field.

The dedicated squad of 16 train twice a week, learning new routines for every game and blending youth with experience to perform in synchrony in front of a passionate crowd at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

Emily Puglisi, 22, has been a part of the Spirit for four years, living her childhood dream of blending her passion for dance with her love of rugby league.

Having started dancing at the tender age of 4, Emily’s dance background tends more towards jazz, the discipline she credits for her ability to pick up routines quickly.

“I just love the atmosphere at each and every home game, interacting with the crowd, meeting with fans, and most importantly cheering on the Cowboys,” she said.

“We have the best seats in the house, but it takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to put on a polished routine on the field, and without the dedication of our choreographer and team it wouldn’t be possible.

“There are lots of people who think we go to the games, sit there, look pretty and go home; but I really hope people look past that because it takes a lot of devotion and hard work.

“I hope that we are someone young girls can look up to and strive to keep working hard to be, and they keep pushing to have that goal of becoming a Cowboys cheerleader one day.”

While the fire still burns strong for the lifelong Cowboys fan, who has attended games since she was young alongside her parents, Emily is also smashing goals as a registered nurse having graduated from James Cook University last year.

It’s an endeavour that carries just as much passion, with her love for people, daily interaction and supporting and inspiring others driving her ambition outside of the sparkles and sequins of cheer.

Importantly for Emily, it’s a career path that works in with her Cowboys Spirit role after she secured a full time Monday to Friday job rather than shift work.

Emily said she’s fortunate to have struck a positive work/life balance that allows her to continue supporting the club.

“I love having those professional relationships, the face-to-face patient interaction – that’s what really drives me,” she said.

“Especially now in the area I work, I love the diversity of the work whether it’s caring for complicated wounds or assisting doctors with minor procedures throughout my shift.

“I love working closely with an array of different medical specialties including urology, orthopedics, vascular and many more, and having the opportunity to learn from those around me.”

And while it can be a hard graft, sometimes starting her days at 7am and finishing at 8pm, Emily wouldn’t change it for the world.

She hopes at every game day she can inspire more young girls to reach for the stars, as she did when she watched the cheerleaders in wonder from a young age.

“Just go for it, that’s definitely what I did,” Emily said.

“I was always so in awe of the cheerleaders on the field, and I always told my mum and dad I wanted to be one of them one day – and now I am.

“If you have dance experience behind you that’s amazing, but if you don’t have as much experience as you think we would expect, then don’t let that stop you at all - you could really surprise yourself.”

Now in its 16th year, NRL Women in League Round celebrates the contribution women make to rugby league, and those who are playing their part to create a more equal future at all levels of the game.

The Cowboys’ Women in League jersey is on sale now through the Cowboys Team Shop at

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North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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