With the pandemic again plunging Sydney and Melbourne into lockdown, opportunities to get out and play have been limited lately. But while the new restrictions might have spared me from a take-down or two, it didn’t prevent me from experiencing the passion which drives the Sydney Silverbacks.
If you’ve ever been to Mardi Gras Fair Day in Sydney’s Victoria Park chances are that you have witnessed or even taken part in a Silverbacks demonstration in Team Sydney’s vibrant Sports Village. First established in 1993, the Sydney Silverbacks are an inclusive LGBTQI wrestling club training on Friday evenings year-round in Kings Cross.
An Inclusive And Accessible Sport
Inclusivity and accessibility are at the heart of wrestling. “Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world, because all you need is two people and a bit of space,” Tony Galluzzo informed me when we logged-on to chat.
“It is also a sport that is accessible to every country in the world because all you need is two people and a bit of space so you’ll find there are versions of wrestling in India, in Africa, everywhere. It’s popular for that reason and that’s why it’s so important to have; because it is accessible.”
As one of seven children, six of whom were boys, “wrestling was part of growing up” for Galluzzo, but it was not until he came out at 39 that wrestling became anything more than child’s play.
Galluzzo confessed, “I could talk for an hour about what wrestling means to me, particularly with this club, because I know where I started and where I am now.”
Reflecting on re-establishing the club in 2009, he said, “I think we realised, as the people running it, that people… all had their baggage and they really just needed a safe space, and that’s why it becomes like family, because we all support each other… That has always been an important part of it for myself.”
And that is why Galluzzo, and the Silverbacks, maintain that “anyone that walks through that door is welcome.”
COVID-19 Pandemic & Lockdowns Have Been Challenging
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Like so many clubs within our community, the past 18 months have been some of the Sydney Silverbacks’ most challenging. With gyms closed for much of last year and social-distancing essential to limiting the virus’ spread, opportunities to wrestle have been scarce.
But Galluzzo is quick to praise the efforts and initiatives of Andrew Farrell and Bruce Lau, who took over as the club’s leaders in 2019.
Breaking in amid discussion of the Silverbacks’ COVID-19 programming, Galluzzo said, “Andrew and Bruce have done a great job of keeping the club going… doing outdoor sessions when we could do it, and also some online stuff.”
Not only have Farrell and Lau maintained the club’s pulse, but they’ve attracted bigger numbers. “Probably,” Galluzzo joked, “because there is nothing else to go to on a Friday night.”
When asked what each of them loves about wrestling, it wasn’t the physicality or the cardiovascular workout that Farrell and Lau cited. It was family.
A Big Family
Reflecting on his wrestling initiation, Farrell recalled, “I’d never been very athletic up until that point, and I saw it as a bit of a challenge. But what really held me there were the people. It’s not like anything I’ve ever been involved with before. It’s more like a family; a big family.”
Lau agreed. Originally from Belgium, Lau came to Sydney 10 years ago, and remembers distinctly his first encounter with the Silverbacks. “I did my first wrestling at Fair Day,” he declared.
“The club has become my closest family, and my closest friends. We’ve travelled together, we’ve done events together, we’ve gone out, and there’s also the Gay Games.”
The Gay Games, scheduled for Hong Kong next year, feature prominently in the Silverbacks’ forward planning. Their reputation as the beating-heart of the international LGBTQI wrestling community has been forged through their active and enthusiastic involvement in past Gay Games.
If the resumption of international travel proceeds as hoped, the Silverbacks’ Games contingent will be its largest yet.
In support of these aims, and to celebrate having their family back together, the Silverbacks want you to come out and party.
The Silverback’s are hosting Take Down ‘Red vs Blue’ at Oxford Street’s Burdekin Hotel on October 15, by which time Farrell and Lau are hopeful dance floors will be back in full swing.
The party will have a wrestling and sports gear dress code, and the Silverbacks are hoping that Sydney’s LGBTQI sporting community will get behind the event.
For more information about the club or the event you can visit: www.sydneysilverbacks.com