NSW Waratahs’ scrum half Nick Phipps has told the Star Observer gay fans are some of the most ardent in the game.
Asked if dozens of gay teams descending on Sydney for next month’s Bingham Cup was good for the game, Phipps said: “Absolutely, I think its awesome.”
“They’re some of the most passionate fans we’ve got,” he said.
Phipps (pictured above, centre) made the comments in advance of the Sydney Convicts becoming the first gay team in the world to play as part of professional rugby match.
On Sunday, the team will play Macquarie University at the Allianz Stadium in a curtain raiser ahead of the Waratahs vs. New Zealand Highlanders clash.
It will be only the second time an LGBTI sports team has been invited to play a curtain raiser before a professional game and a first for rugby worldwide.
Phipps said he expected the fans waiting for the Waratahs match would support the Convicts.
“Hopefully they get right behind them because there should be no discrimination in sport at all,” he said.
“It’s straight before we start to warm up and more than anything it should raise awareness about the Convicts as a team.”
An anti-homophobia ad will also air during the match featuring sporting greats David Pocock and Harry Kewell.
NSW Rugby chairman and Bingham Cup ambassador Nick Farr-Jones said they were proud to be a supporter of the Convicts.
“I hope this historic curtain raiser will help us continue to send a strong message that there is no room for discrimination of any kind in rugby, both on and off the field,” he said.
Sydney Convicts president David Whitaker said the team were excited and proud to be the first gay rugby team to be invited to play as part of a professional sporting match.
“Often discrimination and homophobia is based on stereotypes that gay people are somehow weak and they can’t play tough sports like rugby,” he said.
“We hope this game helps to challenge these misconceptions while also raising awareness that homophobia in sport is still a major issue and gay people often feel unwelcome.”
It will be a special occasion for the Convicts’ Jason Fowler who will be playing against his old team on Sunday.
“Just two years ago I was afraid to come out of the closet to my team mates, now I’m playing against them on a gay rugby team as part of a professional sporting event,” he said.
Sunday’s match is the latest initiative from Bingham Cup organisers who were the driving force between the Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework for sporting codes and the Out on the Fields study on the experience of LGBTI people taking part in sport.
The Sydney Convicts will face off against Macquarie University at 1.40pm on Sunday (July 6) at Allianz Stadium, Moore Park, Sydney.