History will be made at AAMI Park on Friday February 20th as the Melbourne Chargers and Sydney Convicts do battle in a curtain raiser to the Asteron Life Super Rugby clash between the RaboDirect Rebels and NSW Waratahs.
It will be the first time in history that two gay Rugby teams have competed as part of a professional sporting event, with added spice coming as it takes place prior to the main clash, also between the two traditional state rivals. Indeed, it is only the third time in the history of world sports that even one gay team has been invited to play a curtain raiser ahead of a professional game (the first time was at a French soccer game).
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The Victorian Government voiced their support for the initiative as the Honourable John Eren, State Minister for Sport, applauded the Rebels and the Melbourne Chargers for joining forces to promote Rugby’s inclusive nature.
“Today’s announcement of a history-making curtain raiser is wonderful news,” Minister Eren said. “Australian Rugby and the Rebels have committed a lot of energy in promoting the inclusiveness of the game, and the Melbourne Chargers are wonderful ambassadors for our state.
“The Victorian Government supports this great initiative, and future endeavours by the Rebels and the Melbourne Chargers which aim to promote inclusiveness in sport for all Victorians."
The Rebels and Melbourne Chargers continue to build a strong partnership. In 2014, Foundation Rebel Adam Freier came out of retirement to play for the Chargers while Wallaby and Rebels scrumhalf Luke Burgess took on the role of Club ambassador, and in 2015 fellow retired Foundation Rebel Lachlan Mitchell comes on board as the Charger’s backs coach.
Rebels’ CEO Peter Leahy was looking forward to seeing the Chargers and Convicts in action at AAMI Park.
“The Melbourne Chargers are wonderful examples of how inclusiveness in Rugby can breed success and friendships,” Leahy said. “We are immensely proud to make history with this curtain raiser, and to show our continual support for the Melbourne Chargers and inclusion in Rugby; it truly is the sport of inclusion.”
The clash, kicking off at 5:30pm as the first Rugby fixture to be played on the AAMI Park deck this calendar year, sees the 2014 Bingham Cup (Gay Rugby World Cup) winning Convicts head in as slight favourites against 2014 Bingham Plate winners, the Chargers.
However, Melbourne Chargers President Daniel Syrus believes that the world champions can be beaten, particularly with Victoria’s Rugby community getting behind their Chargers prior to the Rebels’ first home game of the year.
“We're really excited to play the Convicts at AAMI Park,” Syrus said. “We have ramped up our playing abilities over the last few years, and it's a great opportunity to showcase the team and what we are doing.
“It's an opportunity to show that Rugby is a game for anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, race, or any other identifier. Rugby is a family: it has a place for everyone in any capacity, from players, supporters, sponsors, coaches, and supporting staff. Getting involved and having a great time is core to community sport.”
This game will be the first of the Chargers’ season, and begins the long road towards the 2016 Bingham Cup, to be held in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Rebels, and Australian Rugby in general, continue to work hard to ensure our great game welcomes all people. In August 2013, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) became the first major Australian sporting code to commit to developing an Inclusion Policy, and just prior to Sydney bringing the Bingham Cup to Australia for the very first time last year, the ARU launched its Inclusion Policy. It is designed to stamp out all forms of discrimination and homophobia in Rugby and ensure a positive environment for everyone involved in the game.
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