A paedophile cheerleading coach jailed last week for serious child abuse material sent "creepy" texts to young athletes and threw boozy underage parties at his gym, a former cheerleader says.
The young woman believes cheerleading officials knew of child sex offender Nikola Marinovich's background before hiring him to film cheerleading competitions and says revelations about his offending have rocked the industry.
The New Zealand Cheer Union denied knowing the extent of Marinovich's background and said it was "disgusted" to learn of new child exploitation charges after being alerted by the Herald.
Marinovich was jailed for three years, six months when he appeared on Friday before Judge Eddie Paul in the Auckland District Court after admitting possessing, making and distributing thousands of graphic child exploitation image and video files, some depicting infants being raped.
Despite being jailed in 2013 for sexual offending against underage girls, the freelance cameraman was able to land numerous jobs working with minors after his release - including on kids' TV show What Now - thanks to lax police vetting policies.
A former cheerleader knew Marinovich when he owned Total Cheerleading gyms in West Auckland and the North Shore. She said his sexual offending only ended when one of his victims' parents found out about the abuse and convinced her to go to police.
"When you're young you don't realise this is wrong and she was manipulated.
"I'm so proud of her for going through with it because he absolutely deserves to rot in jail."
The athlete said she attended several competitions at Marinovich's gym and two underage parties there where alcohol was served to girls as young as 14.
Marinovich tried to get her to train at his gym, offering free uniforms and cheap fees, she said.
"Nik just gave me the creep vibes.
"There were inappropriate texts and that's why girls moved gyms because their parents found out."
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The Herald revealed in July that the New Zealand Cheer Union had hired Marinovich to film two national competitions.
Chairwoman Selena Duncan said at the time the union had initiated an independent review into how he was hired.
However, the athlete was adamant that some Union officials had known Marinovich for years and believed they were well aware of his sexual convictions.
"It's a very small industry. It was all over the news and it was massive.
"Everyone knows because as soon as something like that happens in the industry it's circulating to everyone."
She believed Marinovich was protected by his friends in the cheerleading world, which gave him further access to underage girls even after his release from prison.
South Auckland's Cheer Dynamix gym owner Andrei Coman apologised in July after the Herald revealed he had knowingly hired Marinovich at six cheerleading events between 2016 and 2018 - which was labelled "morally reprehensible" by the sport's national governing body, the New Zealand Cheerleading Association.
There were claims Marinovich regularly attended Coman's gym and was allowed to coach young athletes unsupervised during a training session.
The athlete believed Marinovich's allies did not want to believe what he was capable of. It was an "absolute joke" some were now claiming they had no knowledge of his background.
"They're so blinded by the fact that they were friends with Nik and he did such awful things."
Former Cheer Union boss William Davenport maintained he had no knowledge of Marinovich's sexual offending when he was hired as a cameraman.
"I wasn't personally fully aware. We knew something had gone down in the past but we didn't realise he was convicted or anything like that.
Davenport said he was "disgusted" to learn the truth.
"I battle with the fact that we hired him. I think it takes a personal toll on everybody involved."
Since Marinovich's offending came to light there had been a "real push" for better child protection policies and a "whole different level of awareness".
Duncan confirmed she knew Marinovich, as many in the industry did.
While she was aware he had served time in prison, she did not what he had been convicted of until alerted by the Herald.
Duncan said the Union was appalled to learn that Marinovich had been charged last year with child sexual exploitation and did not know of his arrest when it employed him as a cameraman.
A full investigation was underway.
"I can reiterate that there was no vetting requirements in place at the time."
NZ Cheerleading Association president Kimberley Ramsay said nobody at the rival Union had taken responsibility or accountability.
"I'm disappointed in the other association for letting this happen to our sport. But it has definitely made everyone more aware of what needs to be done to keep our young athletes safe."