They’re tough, they’re gay and they’re over here.
The World Cup of gay rugby is being held in Sydney this weekend, with 24 teams from 15 countries competing for the Bingham Cup.
The tournament is named after American PR exec Mark Bingham, an openly gay rugby player.
Next month marks 13 years since 190cm-tall Bingham’s heroic stance against terrorism, when he stormed the cockpit of Flight 93 on September 11. He was one of 33 passengers killed when the plane crashed short of its target of Washington DC.
This morning, despite the rain, 500 of the gay rugby players trained with coaches, and players from the Super Rugby premiers, the Waratahs, as well as Wallabies coach Andrew Blade. It’s the first time the biennial event has been held south of the equator.
While most participants are gay, the teams are inclusive and have straight players too. A number of leading Australian sportspeople, including former Wallabies captains David Pocock, John Eales and Nick Farr-Jones are ambassadors for the competition as well as cricket coach
The 3-day, 15-a-side tournament runs over this weekend, starting on Friday, August 29, at grounds in Woollahra and Rose Bay. Each side will play six games. The host team, the Sydney Convicts, is among the favourites after being crowned world champions three times since the first Bingham Cup in 2002.
Another strong contender is London’s Kings Cross Steelers, the world’s first gay rugby team. There’s intense rivalry among the international gay teams, particularly London, New York and San Francisco, as well as the three Australian teams from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Brisbane beat Sydney earlier this year at the Australian Gay Rugby championship.
Kings Cross Steelers captain Chris Buckmaster said the competition changed his view that being gay and tough sports were incompatible.
“I grew up in a rugby dominated society where being gay was not even an option, let alone being gay and actually playing competitive sport,” Buckmaster said. “Watching the Kings Cross Steelers trying to demolish each other at my first training session obviously destroyed every misconception I had about myself and gay people.”
Around 1000 players and supporters are in Sydney for the tournament and a pop-up Bingham Cup merchandise shop has opened at 106 Oxford Street, Paddington.
At the time of Bingham’s death, only six gay-inclusive rugby clubs existed worldwide – and he co-founded two. Today there are more than 50 clubs.
There’s more information on the Bingham Cup here.
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