Rugby Union

Sydney Convicts gay rugby player praises David Pocock

Gay rugby union player Brennan Bastyovanszky has described David Pocock as a hero, praising the ACT Brumbies flanker for standing up against homophobic slurs in Sunday's 28-13 loss to the NSW Waratahs.

Pocock, a long-time gay rights activist, made referee Craig Joubert address the comments during the match, and the Brumbies reported two incidents to Super Rugby governing body SANZAR following the game.

Waratahs forward Jacques Potgieter was on Monday night fined $20,000 (with $10,000 suspended) after he admitted to making comments.

Bastyovanszky was forced to quit a Sydney rugby club, which he declined to name, "demoralised" after hearing members of the club make jokes about his sexuality. 

The 36-year-old has played with gay team Sydney Convicts for three years, and lauded Pocock for standing up for his beliefs. 

"David is definitely a hero within the gay community, because we do need brave souls like him to stand up for what's right," Bastyovanszky said. "It's just as bad as racial slurs ... Everybody should be in a safe environment, regardless of race or sexual orientation."

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Bastyovanszky also expressed his appreciation that the Waratahs had devoted time towards coaching the Convicts and other gay rugby clubs. 

"We don't want this to reflect the Convicts think the Waratahs don't help us," he said.

"Rugby in Australia, the Waratahs especially, have been wonderful in raising awareness around homophobia so it might simply be an isolated incident with a player who needs re-education."

Bastyovanszky believes Sunday's incident will provide an example to players afraid to express their homosexuality that rugby is serious about stamping out the issue. 

"I was playing in a Sydney comp and there were comments made using the word faggot and poofter," he said. "When they did find out [my sexuality] there were jokes being passed around in the club, both privately and publicly. 

"It made me feel like I wasn't part of the team and I wasn't welcome. It was ultimately why I left the sport.  There was never any overt attack on me and it was never the official position of the club, but they didn't have the channels for someone like me who didn't feel safe in the club to address those issues. 

"In my final year at the club my playing time had started to dwindle when they found out I was gay. "There was half-a-dozen mates who knew and were comfortable with it, but there was other people at the club making jokes and comments, and I didn't feel like I could share that part of my life.

"If they dismissed it [Sunday's incident] as 'that's just rugby', that's an opportunity missed to raise awareness that it's still a problem."

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