“We were so delighted when Rugby Australia stood up for us,” declared Michael Smith, International Gay Rugby Regional Representative for the Eastern Hemisphere, to the post grand final crowd at the Purchas Cup this weekend.
Everyone was cheering in support of Australia’s governing body of rugby union, with Deputy Chairman Brett Robinson in attendance.
Australia’s inclusive rugby teams thanked Rugby Australia (RA) as they signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) formalising their partnership with one another and RA, so that they can all work together to grow the sport of rugby in LGBT+ communities.
Hosted by the Brisbane Hustlers at Ballymore Stadium, the event saw the Sydney Convicts win both tiers of the Purchas Shied and Cup against existing inclusive Australiasian teams the New Zealand Falcons, Melbourne Chargers, Brisbane Hustlers, new team the Perth Rams, and the Adelaide Sharks.
The MOU establishes a committee with representatives from each recognised Australian member club, creating a partnership that grows the participation rate of people playing rugby in our communities.
Together, they will work towards making rugby safe for all who participate at any level of the competition, identifying barriers and proposing solutions to promote participation for everyone.
“Today is a really significant day for the Australian gay and inclusive rugby clubs,” Melbourne Chargers president Silas Palmer told the Star.
“This partnership with Rugby Australia will help make rugby a welcoming and inclusive code for LGBT people and ensure it remains the game for all.”
The MOU will also educate the rugby community about the impact of homo/trans/bi-phobia and intersexism for the safety and wellbeing of all participants, spectators and staff.
All will aim to strengthen and grow the Purchas Cup, as well as existing Australian clubs, ahead of the international inclusive rugby tournament the Bingham Cup, taking place in Canada next year.
At the opening ceremony of the Purchas Cup on Friday night, it was revealed that Brisbane Hustlers intend to put a bid in for the Bingham Cup to be hosted at Ballymore in 2022.
“It’s now public that we intend to bid,“ Hustlers President Jason Garrick told the Star.
“We are in the process of working with key stakeholders including Queensland Reds, St George Bank, Tourism Events Queensland and Brisbane Marketing.
“The reason why we want Bingham in Brisbane is not just because we have a beautiful facility here at Ballymore – which is only going to get bigger and more beautiful in three years’ time, when we are hopefully back – but we also believe in the sport of rugby.
“Not only for the LGBTIQ+ community, but also for the Pacifica community and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Rugby is a sport for everyone, and if we were to be successful in a bid to host the Bingham in 2022, we want to celebrate all that Australia has to offer.
“The Purchas tournament is continuing to grow, and it is only going to get bigger and better,” continued Garrick.
“We had over 250 registered participants, supporters and coaches and administration this year, and we are so glad that we can show everyone that this tournament is such a huge success in its own right, with thriving and vibrant community.”
Part of that vibrant community is the Perth Rams, who formed last year and competed in their first tournament this weekend.
“To be able to bring a full team to Purchas is really awesome,” Rams President Mitch Wylie said.
“Seeing our team grow with the boys get on the field is fantastic.
“Rugby is a sport that I never played growing up and seeing inclusivity in sport and rugby growing means that we haven’t just joined one rugby club, but a national and global network of inclusive rugby that will just continue to grow.
“We didn’t get the result that we wanted this year, but we had so much fun and the boys played really well. It’s only up from here for us.”
The Sydney Convicts dominated in the final match of the weekend, beating the Brisbane Hustlers 34/0 and wining the Purchase Cup.