THE Sydney Convicts gay rugby union club will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with an open day this weekend and a float in the Mardi Gras that they have described as “bigger than Ben Hur”.

Convicts president David Whittaker told the Star Observer this week the club was first formed by Andrew Purchas in 2004 with only a view to play in the London Bingham Cup – an event that is now known as the “world cup” of gay rugby union.

“We really didn’t think much further than that. We certainly didn’t expect the club to be going for 10 years, have three rugby teams and enjoy such amazing community support,” Whittaker said.

“The highlights have probably been around our tours and on-field success, although our social and community activities have also provided plenty of memorable moments.”

Over that time, the Convicts have managed to win the both the Bingham Cup and Bingham Bowl three times as well as their local suburban club competition in 2012, the Nicholson Cup.

Whittaker said that in the decade the Convicts has been in existence there had been “huge progress in changing attitudes” towards gay and bisexual men in sport, including rugby union.

“This reflects the efforts of out players and their straight allies but also I think it reflects changing attitudes toward sexuality in society,” he said.

“Unfortunately there is still a long way to go and gay and inclusive clubs like the Convicts will need to exist for some years to come. We just hope more gay and bisexual players take up or return to rugby to broaden participation in the sport. We look to improve our rugby every year and as we enter tougher competitions.”

Late last year the Australian Rugby Union made a commitment to become the first footballing code in the country to institute a code-wide inclusion and anti-homophobia policy.

At Mardi Gras Fair Day earlier this month, the Convicts were joined by members of the NSW Waratahs who showed their support and took part in the club’s water dunking competition and other activities.

“The Convicts and Bingham Cup are grateful to the Waratahs for their efforts to promote sexual diversity and tolerance in rugby union,” Whittaker said.

“We had quite a lot of interest from potential new players and topped off one of the best Fair Days ever with a definitive win in the tug-o-war, reclaiming the trophy from our good mates the Harbour City Wrestlers.”

With the Convicts to host the Bingham Cup in Sydney in August, more than 1000 footballers are expected to be in Sydney for the week-long tournament.

“It will be the biggest thing next to Mardi Gras in Sydney,” Whittaker said.

“We are expecting teams from up to 15 different countries to come for the Bingham Cup. As well as the rugby tournament, there will be a week-long festival of events for the whole community to get involved in.

“There are already 25 teams signed up but we want to encourage more teams to come as well as inspire the local community to get involved in this awesome event.”

INFO: Convicts Open Day, 5pm, Sunday February 23 at Reservoir Fields, Centennial Park. For details, visit

IMAGE: Sydney Convict founder Andrew Purchas (centre) with NSW Waratah players at Fair Day. Photo: Paul Wade (



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