Auckland’s gay rugby team will travel to Wellington for a game against the Straight Ups Invitational XV and mark the beginning of gay rugby in New Zealand.
October’s game will mark 20 years since the first match between two gay rugby teams in New Zealand and the world
To mark the 20th anniversary of that historic match, the New Zealand Falcons will host the Straight Ups Invitational XV at Ian Galloway Park on Sunday, October 21.
The first game between two gay rugby teams occurred in south Wellington in October 1998.
That game was played between the NZ Falcons predecessor, the Ponsonby Heroes and the Krazy Knights, who included on the team, a future Minister of Sports (and Finance), Grant Robertson.
Speaking to The Wireless earlier this year, Robertson said the Knights was a response to rugby not being accommodating to all who wished to be involved with what is largely considered New Zealand’s national game.
“Everybody knows that rugby culture in New Zealand has traditionally been a very macho thing and wasn’t seen to be very inclusive. The publicity was about being able to say yes, we’re gay, but we also want to be part of something that’s very much a part of our country’s culture.”
Twenty years on and the need for gay rugby teams is just as strong, if not stronger than what it was in 1998.
For most of the time since that October 1998 game, the Falcons remained New Zealand’s only out gay rugby team. That changed this year with the formation of the Canterbury Heroes in Christchurch, a signal of gay rugby’s continual rise across the country.
The importance of gay rugby in New Zealand over the past 20 years has been two-fold.
Speaking to express, Ronan Maoilchrion says that the first is obviously about proving a safe and supportive environment for gay men who love the game of rugby union but have previously not felt comfortable in playing.
“Many of our players join to play rugby for the first time, having not felt comfortable to play growing up. Having the freedom to be your authentic self while playing sport is something that cannot be underestimated.” Maoilchroin says.
“We can all remember how great it felt when we finally found our tribe after coming out. Joining the Falcons gives us a new tribe – A bunch of guys who love playing rugby equally as much as they love to drag race.”
The second is the impact the Falcons has had on the way the national game is conducted on the whole.
Maoilchrion notes the close relationship the Falcons have with the sport’s governing body, New Zealand Rugby and the approach NZR have towards making rugby in New Zealand more gay inclusive.
“Having gay teams such as the Falcons, who have a close relationship with NZR (New Zealand Rugby), can only be good for making the game more inclusive.”
“This year NZR were awarded the rainbow tick and also took part in the Pride parade in Auckland for the first time, marching with the Falcons. These activities show that NZR is dedicated to promoting inclusion in rugby.” Maoilchrion says.
Given the progress made over the past twenty years for gay rugby in New Zealand, it’s important to acknowledge the event that started it all.
“Marking the 20th anniversary of the first rugby match between two gay rugby teams in NZ and the world is important for the club. We want to recognize and remember the guys who’ve led the way for gay rugby in NZ.”