Brothers Riley and Perrin Tasker probably wouldn’t be playing rugby if it wasn’t for the Sydney Convicts.
Now, they’re both having the chance to take an overseas trip to compete in the Bingham Cup, with a newfound sense of confidence and comfort.
Riley, whose trip to Nashville next week will be his first plane journey, let alone overseas adventure, a benefit that he would never really have anticipated.
Both Tasker brothers had stopped playing rugby before joining the Convicts, Perrin the first with Riley following.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Perrin, but he hasn’t looked back.
“I was really anxious when I first went down, it was a bit of a step for me but as soon as as I did it I felt welcome and it was fine from the get go,” he said.
While he said he hadn’t really had any run-ins with discrimination, Riley said there was a feeling of being out of place in what is an inherently heterosexual environment.
“Where I was playing (before), people don’t make you excluded but I wasn’t out then and I just didn’t feel comfortable.
“You go have a drink and the guys talk about girls and you’re just into girls but you don't’ say that probably wouldn't go down well there.
“There’s a culture’s associated with it.
“All you want to do is feel comfortable. I don't care if someone’s gay or straight but it’s just being comfortable about who you are, having people know who you are, so you don't have to hide behind barriers.”
Perrin said while rugby was changing, the Convicts still played an important role for many people.
“Some people need that sense of safety and security, some people are more comfortable with their sexuality than others and some clubs will be more inclusive than others and people are getting more and more inclusive,” he said.
“Having a gay rugby team is good to send a message with the whole masculinity issue of rugby - you don’t have to just be straight to play rugby.”
Riley said moments like David Pocock calling out on-field slurs and the support of the recent Rainbow Laces round were important parts of helping young people feel more accepted.
“Obviously keep supporting the rainbow laces round and show that you actually support gay people being part of the rugby community,” he said.
“Then, younger people finding out that they’re gay don’t feel alienated.
“It doesn’t have to be playing for the convicts but just that they feel happy being how they are, no matter where they are.
The Convicts were the first gay rugby team in Australia, but they are no longer on their own, with Brisbane Hustlers and Melbourne Chargers.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was at Sunday’s Convicts send off and said the growth of the club could only be a good thing for rugby
“They’ve got their own identity which is like any good footy team has got that and...they play some good footy too,” he said.
“It gets everyone involved, doesn’t just make them better players but makes them more passionate supporters of the Super Rugby teams and then the Australian team as well.”
The Convicts are the defending Bingham Cup champions and will be looking for a fifth title from eight tournaments, in Nashville next month.