The Sydney Swans took home the trophy at this year’s AFL Pride Match against St Kilda.
More than 30,000 spectators turned out to cheer on both teams at the fourth annual match, held in Sydney on August 24.
The Swans donned rainbow topped socks for the match, while St Kilda took to the field in jerseys with their player numbers in the pride flag colours.
With over 400 members, the Rainbow Swans are the official LGBTQI supporter group of the Swans.
Rainbow Swans chair Sarina Jackson told the Star Observer that the Rainbow Swans have grown from a small Yahoo group in the early 2000s to now arranging various activities throughout the year, including home and away matches and other functions.
She says both the Sydney and St Kilda clubs are “awesome” active supporters of the yearly Pride Match, which began in 2016.
Though held just a few years ago, the first Pride Match attracted “ridiculous” criticism.
Ruck Tom Hickey, then a St Kilda player, told the Star Observer at the time that critics were “on the wrong side of history.”
“I find it a bit ridiculous when people say stuff like that, because you know the chances of a lesbian or gay or trans person attempting suicide or [having] depression is far greater than a [cis] straight person,” he said.
“So it is an issue in society, it is an issue where people don’t feel welcome to be who they are.
“I’m really proud of the club for [participating in the match], and it’s not until people have a personal connection with it that they understand the effect [homophobia and transphobia] has on people.”
While the Pride Match creates visible support for the community, neither club yet has any players who are openly LGBTQI.
“There are plenty in the women’s teams,” Jackson says, explaining that she feels the environment in women’s sport makes it easier for women to be out.
“They are more visible.”
This year’s Pride Match marked a number of player milestones for the Swans, as the 300th game for Lance Franklin, the 50th for Aliir Aliir, and the final game for veteran players Kieran Jack and Jarrad McVeigh.
Franklin was named a player ally for the Rainbow Swans, along with Isaac Heeney, Will Hayward and Colin O’Riordan. These players act as ambassadors between the LGBTQI community and the club.
Jackson says the role of the Rainbow Swans involves advocacy and visibility.
“[It provides a] safe space for our members to enjoy a traditionally hetero sport, with a fun atmosphere,” she says.
“The Pride Match takes it to the broader community.”
You can find more information on the Rainbow Swans and their activities on their Facebook page.