Two-time world champion gay rugby team the Sydney Convicts are facing a generational shift.

Many of the original founding members are now retiring after years of playing the sport, well past the traditional ‘due date’ for rugby.

An influx of valuable young players has helped bolster the ranks, but the team is still on the lookout to replace retiring players and ensure a strong chance in the Bingham Cup in 2012.

This year’s Fair Day will be of critical importance to the Convicts, who have previously recruited some of their best players at the Mardi Gras event.

The week following, on February 26, they’ll also have an open day for new players — a chance to try some basic rugby drills.

Will Field, aged 21, joined the Convicts last year and told the Star Observer the team showed him he didn’t need to be wearing glitter to be gay.

“To me, as a young person, the Convicts mean being part of a community that looks after each other in a fun, safe and positive environment,” he said.

“I can put on a pair of rugby shoes and get a little rough and dirty with the boys while playing sport. It really makes me feel like I am part of something great.”

Field, a youth peer education officer for ACON, recalled his first day at training and how accepting the older guys were, even though he didn’t have a lot of experience.

“Not once did they crack on to me for not knowing what I was doing. It really helped me out and allowed me to learn the game, which is a pretty tough sport, at a pace I was comfortable with.”

Retiring player and Convicts founding member Andrew Purchas encouraged people to visit the team’s stall at Fair Day.

“This is a great time to join the Convicts. The club is entering its eighth season and we have a number of players who are retiring,” he told the Star Observer.

“Most of these guys will be continuing to stay with the club, helping it continue to be the most successful gay rugby team in the world.

“There is a place for everyone who wants to play rugby at the Convicts. With two teams we are able to provide a fantastic opportunity for both experienced and new players to enjoy rugby.”

CONVICTS OPEN DAY

Two-time world gay rugby champions the Sydney Convicts will hold an open day at the top Reservoir playing fields at Centennial Park on Saturday, February 26 at 4pm.

info: Call Simon on 0414 915 027, www.sydneyconvicts.org or email [email protected]

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