THE Brisbane Hustlers will be looking to achieve back-to-back wins this weekend as they join the Sydney Convicts, Melbourne Chargers and New Zealand Falcons to contest the Purchas Cup in Auckland.

Since its origin in 2004, the Purchas Cup has been held for gay and inclusive rugby union teams in Australia and New Zealand, and due to its trans-Tasman nature, is often referred to as the “Bledisloe Cup of gay rugby”.

[showads ad=MREC]This year marks the first time the Auckland-based Falcons host the cup and will most likely deliver a tough and hard-fought competition with not only the Hustlers looking to defend their title, but the Convicts feeling pressure to follow up their international Bingham Cup victory last year.

For the Brisbane team, the Purchas Cup win last year after a fairly recent reformation of the club was proof that their players were dedicated.

“Winning the Purchas Cup last year at Queensland’s home of rugby, Ballymore, was a momentous occasion for our club,” Brisbane Hustlers president Martin Tebbutt said.

“Since the rebirth of the Hustlers we have gone from strength to strength, aiming to succeed at the highest level, and being crowned Purchas Cup champions for the first time was testament to our hard work.

“With a new group of players, we are looking to build on that result and further establish ourselves as a force to be reckoned with.”

The cup is named after the founder of the Convicts, Andrew Purchas, who was also the president of last year’s Bingham Cup and is at the forefront of an anti-homophobia in sport campaign. He shared his praise for the competition’s teams ahead of this weekend’s games.

“The evolution of the tournament continues to prove that the gay ruby scene in Australia and New Zealand is not only alive and well, but also fiercely competitive,” Purchas said.

“With many of the international fixtures too expensive for local clubs to attend, the tournament has become one of the fiercely fought battles on the gay rugby calendar in this region.

“It is amazing to see that in 10 years gay and inclusive rugby clubs have thrived in four cities and are extremely competitive in each of their local competitions.

“Each of these clubs are doing a great job of providing an opportunity for people to play and participate in the great game of rugby. We are fortunate the [Australian Rugby Union] and the state and city rugby unions continue to be very supportive.”

In the lead up to the Bingham Cup Sydney 2014, a push for eliminating homophobia on sporting fields attracted mainstream media attention, with all five major Australian sporting codes signing up to the Tackling Homophobia in Sport campaign.

The campaign has since snared several awards in the process. Building upon its success, efforts are underway to take the campaign to more regional and global stages.

Public relations firm Weber Shandwick has agreed to take on the Sydney Convicts-led campaign pro-bono and is currently in the process of working with Convicts, Hustlers and Chargers players to share their personal stories.

“All of these stories will include personal anecdotes of the players’ experiences with homophobia, framed around the (sometimes conflicting) desire to play rugby and be part of the community that surrounds it,” Weber Shandwick’s Lukas Picton said.

The Purchas Cup will be decided this weekend, September 5 at Ponsonby Rugby Club in Auckland

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