Rugby Union

Brumby Matt Toomua joins rainbow laces campaign to stand against homophobia

ACT Brumbies playmaker Matt Toomua will tighten his boots with rainbow laces on Saturday night in the hope a new initiative helps create a more inclusive environment in rugby union and take another step to stamping out homophobia in sport.

Toomua will be in Sydney on Wednesday for the launch of the Rainbow Round, with sports stars uniting in support of an inclusion policy to create awareness for pride and diversity.

Matt Toomua has also seen the impact of fighting against homophobia after meeting gay players at the Mardi Gras last year.
Matt Toomua has also seen the impact of fighting against homophobia after meeting gay players at the Mardi Gras last year. Photo: Jay Cronan

It comes almost exactly 12 months after the Brumbies and David Pocock stood up for their beliefs when former NSW Waratahs forward Jacques Potgieter used homophobic language to sledge players in a Super Rugby contest.

Toomua and several of his teammates will wear the rainbow laces when the Brumbies play the Waikato Chiefs at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.

The ACT Brumbies will support the rainbow laces initiative almost exactly a year after a homophobic slur incident in one ...
The ACT Brumbies will support the rainbow laces initiative almost exactly a year after a homophobic slur incident in one of their Super Rugby matches. Photo: Matt Bedford

The club took a stand together last year to condemn Potgieter's comments.

But Toomua has also seen the impact of fighting against homophobia after meeting gay players when he was on the lead float at the Mardi Gras last year.

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"For me it's about creating an environment where if we did have a gay player come through, they would be comfortable in their skin," Toomua said.

"A slip of the tongue might seem innocent enough, but it actually does have a significant impact on someone.

"The fact most gay players come out after they've retired says something [about sport]. There's a reason for that. If that's the case, we want to create an environment where that's not what's happening. It's just creating a culture where people can be who they are.

"It's just about being aware of things like language ... the experiences I've had has been fairly positive but every now and then there is a slip of the tongue."

Rugby league star Jonathan Thurston is part of the campaign, which has partnered with Skins Australia, while Canberra United striker Michelle Heyman is also a part of the initiative.

The Canberra Capitals wore a rainbow stripe down the side of their singlets for the WNBL season to create discussion around equality and inclusiveness by becoming the first team in Australia to take a season-long stance on the issue.

The Brumbies returned to Canberra on Monday night after winning two of their three games on a road trip to Perth, Cape Town and Bloemfontein.

The players are focused on their clash against the ladder-leading Chiefs, who boast the best attacking record in the competition so far this year.

But behind the scenes officials are still battling out an ugly war after chief executive Michael Jones was temporarily given the all clear to continue his job while the ACT Supreme Court assesses his case against the Brumbies' board.

Players and coaching staff are refusing to be drawn into the drama, and they have won four of their five games this year to be at the top of the Australian conference.

Toomua is also focused on his role in a worldwide campaign to take a stand against homophobia.

"When I was on the float last year I was there because it was something that I agreed with, but it wasn't until afterwards and talking to some gay players that you realise the impact it has," Toomua said.

"That's all I want to do is help create that awareness and if we can do that by wearing laces then we're all for it.

"In terms of rugby it's good to come back with some positive energy and a positive vibe around the group, but we know it's going to be a pretty fast and entertaining game against the Chiefs. We want to be a part of that."