Brisbane is hosting this year’s Purchas Cup in September, the biggest event on the 2019 Australian gay rugby calendar.
Celebrating LGBTQI inclusion in rugby union, the tournament is held every two years, alternating with the international Bingham Cup – the world cup of gay rugby.
Hosts the Brisbane Hustlers will face off against the Melbourne Chargers, the New Zealand Falcons, and the Sydney Convicts.
Brisbane are the current holders of the cup after beating the Convicts in the Purchas Cup final in Melbourne in 2017.
This is the 15th year of the Purchas Cup, which began its life as a match between the Convicts and Hustlers.
New Zealand hosted the event for the first time in 2015, and all four Australian and New Zealand member teams of International Gay Rugby (IGR) have competed ever since.
Sydney Convicts player Eliot Hastie is thrilled to be heading to Brisbane for the cup.
“I never played rugby growing up, but am actually from Brisbane, so I can’t wait to play in front of friends and family that have never seen me play before,” he says.
“The pressure is on obviously, but I know my teammates and know they will be giving it their all.”
“My first Purchas Cup was back in 2017 in Melbourne and I scored my first ever rugby try, so honestly that’s the bar for me and I’m hoping I can add another try to my scorecard.”
Club president Don Rose has competed with the Convicts at three previous Purchas Cups and three Bingham Cups.
He told the Star Observer he is looking forward to both the sporting and social elements of this year’s cup.
“It is shaping up to be the largest in the history of the tournament, both in the number of teams and also the number of registered players, with some 180 people expected to participate,” Rose says.
“Whenever the Australasian teams meet it is very special. The rugby is hard fought and competitive, and is supported by a great opportunity for everyone to socialise and catch up with old mates from other cities.”
The Convicts are also celebrating their 15th anniversary as a club this year, having been founded in 2004 by Andrew “Fuzz” Purchas OAM, for whom the cup is named.
The Convicts are previous winners of the Purchas Cup, as well as winning the Bingham Cup five times.
“We are really excited and proud to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Sydney Convicts, and more broadly the 15th anniversary of gay and inclusive rugby in Australia,” says Rose.
“For me it is an opportunity to reflect on everything we have achieved in our history so far, the success on the field, the broader impact we have been able to influence within our community, and also the personal stories of the difference the club has been able to make in the lives of many of our members over the last 15 years.”
The Convicts have had a special place in Hastie’s heart since they first welcomed him as a member.
“The Sydney Convicts as a club gave me a home,” he says.“I never had many gay friends in Brisbane as I was closeted for most of [that time], and I knew no-one when I moved to Sydney.”
“The club really took me in, and I created relationships that I will cherish forever. I think what makes us such a successful club is the bonds that we form,” he says.
“You want to play hard, you want to win because of the people you’re playing with. You don’t give up because you know the guy next to you won’t either, and I think that’s the strength of the club.”
Rose says that LGBTQI-inclusive clubs play a very important role in sport in Australia.
“LGBTI clubs provide a safe place for members of our community to participate in sport without concern that their sexuality is a barrier, but [we also] provide a place for people to meet and enjoy their sport with other likeminded individuals,” he explains.
“This provides a great platform for people to make and build long-standing friendships and bonds.
“It is also important that we acknowledge the importance of our visibility in our broader community, especially as all Australian teams compete in their local suburban competitions.
“By doing this we continue to drive a conversation that champions tolerance, diversity and acceptance, and hopefully makes other non-LGBTI clubs more inclusive so that LGBTI people can feel welcome there as well.”
This year’s tournament will take place in Brisbane between Friday 13 and Sunday 15 September.
More details are available on the Purchas Cup Facebook page. To find out more about the Sydney Convicts go to www.sydneyconvicts.org