Channel Ten news reporter Eammon Ashton-Atkinson is used to telling stories. But he’s never told one as personal as in a new documentary, on the world’s first gay rugby club.
The King’s Cross Steelers were born in a UK pub in 1995 when a group of friends discussed the idea of creating a gay rugby club.
Now 25 years later, there are dozens of gay rugby clubs worldwide. Every two years they come together for the Bingham Cup world tournament.
In his documentary Steelers: The World’s First Gay Rugby Club, Eammon Ashton-Atkinson follows the team as they travel to Amsterdam for the 2018 Cup.
We’re introduced to Drew, inside centre by day and drag queen by night. Fellow player Simon found a much-needed support system in the club.
And head coach Nic, an out female former pro player, opens up about overcoming misogyny in a male-dominated sport.
Eammon moved to London for work in 2016 and met his husband John after joining the Steelers. The couple married in May 2018.
“I really struggled with my sexuality growing up. I got bullied a lot as a kid and much of it happened during sports class,” Eammon explained.
“It was no surprise I grew up hating sport and never felt like I was welcome there.
“When I moved to London and joined a gay rugby team, I never imagined the profound change it would have on my life.
“I met my husband. I confronted my past. And I finally found a place where I belonged.”
Gay rugby players are ‘entitled to their place on the pitch’
Eammon Ashton-Atkinson said rugby is “almost a religion” in countries in Australia. He said his documentary is also in part a response to the likes of Israel Folau.
“I hope this film challenges fans of the game to rethink their perceptions of masculinity and take another look at how they see queer people,” he said.
“And I also hope it challenges queer players who’ve held back to realise they are entitled to their place on the pitch.
“I tell stories for a living, but I’ve never told one this personal. It’s the kind of story I would’ve loved to have seen in my darker days.
“My wish is for this film to give hope to those who may need it. Not just those struggling with their sexuality but anyone doubting themselves.”
Steelers will make its Australian debut at this year’s Queer Screen Film Fest. The festival is moving online for 2020 due to COVID-19.
The gay rugby doco is one of dozens of features and shorts in the festival’s 11-day program. Most are available to stream online anywhere in Australia.
Queer Screen Film Fest runs from September 17 to 27. Visit the website to find out more about screenings and accessing the films on demand.
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