WITH an expanding base of players and fans and some added help from a Wallaby legend, the Brisbane Hustlers is preparing to face its biggest year yet in tackling homophobia both on and off the field.

Only reforming four years ago after a long hiatus, the Hustlers have racked up impressive seasons in local and national gay competitions, including a Purchas Cup win in 2013 and second place in the 2014 Bingham Cup, the “World Cup of gay rugby union”.

As the next Bingham Cup approaches later this year in Nashville, Hustlers president Martin Tebbutt said the team would once again prove a formidable opponent.

Reflecting on a recent training camp, Tebbutt said the Hustlers were benefitting from growing resources and have come a long way in four years.

“The recent training camp was without a doubt our best ever,” he told the Star Observer.

“Along with a great turnout, our increased couching resources allowed training and development for both our experienced and new players.

“On top of all that, with the help of Darren and Troy Brady, we have created a new team songs… we will have two sides playing this year, and have five excellent coaching resources to help everyone develop into the best players they can be.”

Hoping to gain some great insight and professional expertise, the team has welcomed Brendan Cannon, senior Wallaby hooker from 2001-2006, to their mentoring squad.

“[Brendan] will be assisting our head coach Darren with the first team as a forwards coach, and provide crucial specialty training around set pieces for all our players,” Tebbutt said.

“His influence on training has been phenomenal, and every one of our players has benefited from his presence.

“I was fortunate enough to meet Brendan through some mutual friends and discussed our club and the goals we have. He was greatly impressed with this and volunteered to help out in some capacity. After one training session he was that enamoured with the playing group that he committed for the rest of the season.”

Nashville may the primary focus for 2016, but promoting inclusion and community involvement remains at the backbone of the club.

“However, getting the balance between inclusion and competitiveness right, has been a challenge,” Tebbutt said.

“We need the club to be successful to survive and continue the great work we are doing in and out of our community, however we also want all our new players, regardless of ability to be included and have a go.

“This year, with a bigger playing and coaching group, we will be able to field two sides in various competitions and games. Continuing that through in to next year, off the back of our Bingham and Scotney Cup wins, will cement our club’s foundations for years to come.”

Gay and inclusive rugby teams around Australia have a common focus on combatting homophobia in sport by breaking down stereotypes and challenging barriers within the sport for gay players.

The Bingham Cup 2014 in Sydney was a pivotal moment in the effort to quash homophobia in sport, and with Nashville on the horizon, those messages are still important.

“Since the last Bingham Cup there has definitely been progress made, but this is by no means no longer an issue,” Tebbutt said.

“Continuing the fight against homophobia, and offering a message of inclusion for all is what we will be driving through this year and ongoing.

“With our new batch of recruits we are reinvigorated by their positivity in finding ‘others like them’, so it is important as ever that we continue our drive for inclusion, and provide a community group for those who are in need.”

As the next Bingham Cup approaches, fans in Brisbane can look forward to a series of fundraising events for the team, one of which includes a team calendar that will raise eyebrows.

The Brisbane Hustler’s local season launch will be at the Wickham Hotel on March 4.

For more information, visit brisbanehustlers.org

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