FOR a group of blokes more familiar with Darlinghurst than Moore Park, the Sydney Convicts didn’t let their nerves show on Sunday, with the gay rugby team decisively beating their opponents in front of the crowd at one of Australia’s largest stadium.
Winger Jay Claydon, who joined the team after experiencing homophobia at his former club, was named Man of the Match after scoring three tries to defeat Macquarie University 30-12.
Convicts head coach Charlie Winn said: “It was a tough, physical match with both teams very hungry to win, but the Convicts poured their hearts and souls onto the field, fighting hard from start to finish.
“The curtain raiser was a once in a lifetime experience for the team and I’m proud we made the most of this historic opportunity to show gay men can and do play quality rugby.”
Winn said he hoped yesterday’s match would make it easier for other gay teams around the world to show their skills to a wider audience.
The match was part of the build up to the Bingham Cup international gay rugby tournament that will be held in Sydney next month.
In the last few months, cup organisers have also received a commitment from the major sporting codes to tackle homophobia and are in the midst of as global survey to judge the attitudes of lesbian, gay and bisexual towards participation in sport.
Wallabies legend John Eales, the most successful captain in Australian rugby history, congratulated the Convicts.
“I am very proud of the Convicts for making history while also challenging stereotypes around gay men,” he said.
“They are a great group of guys and they put a lot of heart and passion into their rugby.”
Eales said it was always disappointing to hear stories of people who don’t play sports because they fear bigotry from fans or players.
“I’m sure that by holding historic events like this weekend’s curtain raiser and taking other steps to publicly support gay people, we can help eradicate homophobia and discrimination in sport,” he said.
Les Johnson, a Vice-President of the Federation of Gay Games— the world’s largest LGBT sporting organisation— praised the Convicts.
“We applaud rugby and Australia’s other major sports for being trailblazers and for strongly supporting our community,” he said.
“The historic initiatives being led by Australians are significant developments in the worldwide effort to end discrimination and make sport welcoming and safe for all.”
In addition to the game, a panel discussion on homophobia in sport was held during the pre-game show and an anti-homophobia video was shown across the stadium featuring sporting legends including Mitchell Johnson, Harry Kewell and Libby Trickett.