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The Bingham Cup: celebrating homosexuality in rugby

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Pearse Egan has only played rugby since the start of 2014, but even in a matter of months he has found himself transformed by the sport.

Ever since his school days, Egan has faced discrimination for his homosexuality.

"Over the years I've always left every group I've joined. Karate, scouts, basketball – not for me. I was never able to stick with anything because I never felt a part of anything," he said.

But all that changed for the 25-year-old actor when he joined the Sydney Convicts, Australia's first gay rugby union club.

Pearse and his teammates will face off against 25 teams from 15 countries around the world when the Bingham Cup program starts on Sunday. Games will be played from next Friday to Sunday.

Also known as the Gay Rugby World Cup, the Bingham Cup is a non-professional biennial tournament, which recognises rugby as all-inclusive, regardless of sexuality.


It is named after Mark Bingham, a global advocate against homophobia in sport and a victim on United Flight 93 in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

For Egan, preparing for the Cup with the Convicts was a positive reminder of his worth in a welcoming and diverse community.

"Oh my god. I can't wait. Right now I eat, sleep and breathe Bingham," he said.

"I can't wait to play because there is a beautiful level of competitiveness. It's just a really strong sense of sportsmanship."

In June the Bingham Cup organisation launched an international study into homophobia in sports.

More than 7000 people participated in the "Out on the Fields" study, which found that 85 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual and 75 per cent of heterosexual participants said they had witnessed or experienced homophobia at a sporting environment.

Initiatives such as this have led to a commitment from the heads of professional sports to implement policies to eliminate homophobia, in line with a policy drafted by the organisers of the Bingham Cup.

The 2014 cup is the seventh in the history of the tournament, and is backed by ambassadors across sports, like Wallabies Dave Pocock and Adam Ashley-Cooper, South Sydney's Greg Inglis and Australian women's cricketer Alex Blackwell.

With its full schedule of events, games and parties, the competition is a "war of attrition", a spokesman for the Bingham Cup said.

"There will be a week of events starting Sunday, including an intense training session on Wednesday with the Waratahs, where players and coaching staff will be running clinics in Moore Park," he said.

Players will have little time for rest, with each team playing six games across three days.

While the tournament will be a tough slog physically, Egan said the pain is worth it for the experience.

"I have a belief in myself that I never did before," he said.

"And I'm not saying that everybody likes me on each of the teams, but if somebody does have an aversion to me, it's because our personalities clash rather than due to my sexuality.

Along with the mateship, fitness and fun involved with the game, Mr Egan has valued the mentorship shared between all the members of his team.

"It has motivated me in every part of my life. The Convicts have made me think I can do so much more. I joined this rugby group with no pre-conceptions and now I think I can do anything, well almost."

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