Perth’s queer hockey team smashed this year’s Mardi Gras tournament, and now they have their eyes set on Paris. Coach Reid Smith spoke with Jess Jones about stripping down to reach the club’s goals.

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The Perth Pythons hockey club is undertaking a very cheeky fundraiser to help get them to the 2018 Gay Games in Paris: they’re selling a nude calendar featuring some of their fabulous queer players.

Given they’re located in Australia’s hockey capital, they were even able to recruit players from the Australian men’s and women’s teams to join the Pythons getting their clothes off for the cause.

“We wanted to do something a bit different—you don’t see a lot of naked hockey,” says coach Reid Smith.

The club is still on a high from its big win at the inaugural Mardi Gras Hockey Tournament.

The Pythons defeated the Sydney Bentstix and the London Royals to take home the championship, an achievement Smith is rightly proud of.

“I’m quite competitive,” he admits.

“We did very well in Sydney, and if I can whip them into shape I hope we have a good shot in Paris.”

The club’s membership has exploded in the two short years since its inception, going from just a few people to roughly 100 members.

The Pythons pride themselves on diversity, and it’s no accident—they have worked hard to ensure it’s not just a cis boys’ club, actively welcoming all sexualities and genders. Some players have even transitioned during their time with the club.

Perth is “not a huge city”, Reid says, so the club as a social space has been a wonderful opportunity for people from different parts of the LGBTI community to get to know and understand each other.

“It makes the whole environment really great. We even have queer families involved with the club, and we’re really chuffed about that,” he says.

The club is a social option for LGBTI people that provides an alternative to the usual gay bar scene. Many players join as a way to get back into sport after a long hiatus, often since high school.

Smith acknowledges that queer folks frequently feel unwelcome in mainstream sporting clubs.

“Sport is not really a welcoming environment for gay people,” he says.

“Traditionally it’s been very hostile. So to see people re-engaging with sport through something like this, I love that.”

Asked if hockey is a sport people can learn to play quickly, Smith laughs.

“To varying degrees,” he says.

“One player just started and has been to four training sessions. He is by far the best new person I’ve ever seen. Everyone comments on how incredibly quick this guy has picked it up, and he’s never played sports before, at all. It’s incredible.”

For the rest of us mere mortals, the skills come with time, and new players are given plenty of coaching and support.

“It can be a pretty steep learning curve, but we focus on training and making sure everyone has an opportunity to improve,” Smith says.

“We have a real diversity of skills and experience within the team.”

The Pythons are always welcoming new members, especially beginners.

To find out more about the club, or to have a perve at the Pride in Hockey calendar to help get the team to Paris, find them on Facebook or at: www.perthpythons.com.

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