Gareth Thomas may have retired from professional rugby last week, but it didn’t take long for a 22-year-old Welsh player to follow in his groundbreaking footsteps.
Captain for Wales’ Old Redcliffians team, Jed Hooper, came out to family and friends earlier this year and spoke to the Bristol Evening Post in the hope that his story can help other young rugby players come to terms with their sexuality.
“I met someone earlier this year who said he could not be with someone who was in the closet. That, basically, was the catalyst that I needed,” Hooper said.
“Before that, I think I had already told about ten friends and their reaction was very positive so that gave me an inkling of what might happen.
“And I also thought if the crap really hits the fan then at least there are ten people on my side.”
Hooper sent texts to his friends and also made the announcement on Facebook.
“I wrote and rewrote the text four or five times, and I had my finger on the ‘send’ button for ages before I finally pushed it,” he said.
“I then cried my eyes out as I was thinking to myself ‘what have you done?’, but very quickly I must have had 40 replies and all of them were positive.”
Reaction throughout the Bristol rugby community has been overwhelmingly positive, reported the Standard.
“There has only been one comment on the pitch, at a pre-season tournament, and I had to step in to stop our lads from kicking things off,” he said.
“If anyone is reading this and they’re in the same situation as me, all I want to say is don’t bottle things up because, trust me, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The world’s not against you. If my story can help one person then this has been worth it.”