THE cream of Australia’s coaching talent converged in Sydney’s eastern suburbs yesterday to dish out some last minute tips and advice to the hundreds of gay rugby players who have descended on the harbour city for the Bingham Cup.
The first match of the tournament, which will see the world’s best gay rugby team crowned, starts tomorrow.
Coaches from both the Wallabies and the NSW Waratahs split the teams and put them through a gruelling training session often interrupted by torrential rain and high winds.
However, Jimmy Karttunen, of Toronto team Muddy York, said the inclement weather did not stop play.
“Pretty much as soon as the sideways rain stopped everyone was out running and showing their stuff,” he said.
“We loved it,” added team mate Eric Demarbre.
“We wouldn’t be called Muddy York if we didn’t like mud.
“They didn’t take it easy on us either. They came expecting players to learn about rugby and they ran us through it, they worked us out and they got us in the mud.”
The Canadian player said it was a privilege to be trained Australia’s top rugby union coaches: “Something like this is so big so big for the gay community and the sport.”
Wallabies assistant coach Andrew Blades said the session was designed to give all the players, whatever their level of experience, a grounding in the contact areas of the game such as rucking and tackling.
“We wanted to give them all drills and skills they can take away with them and practice in the future as they go on with their rugby careers… and to make sure they are more confident going into the games on the weekend,” he said.
“[The players have] come here for a great experience and we wanted to help them have that great experience and give them a good work out.”
Blades said his fellow coaches were pleased to organise the boot camp for the teams.
“The Bingham Cup has got a great reputation for being very competitive and also a lot of fun so to be a little part of it today has been great,” he said.
“This competition is very important for making guys feel comfortable that might not feel comfortable going to a mainstream club.”
“We want everyone to feel like they’ve got a place in rugby and hopefully, over time, players in this tournament will feel like that they can play in any team.”
Australian Rugby Union are expected to finalise a new LGBTI inclusion policy this week following the code signing up to the Bingham Cup led Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework for Australian sports in April.
(Main image credit: Benedict Brook; Star Observer)