It will be difficult to pick a Sydney prisoner from the city’s suburban rugby union team.
They play serious rugby, train twice a week, boo from the side, and participate in a “boat race” where they duel with their opponents after the game to determine who can eat a can of beer the fastest.
On the surface, they are a remarkable team. But if you look back at the club, you’ll find something different: a comprehensive, welcoming and tightly knit community known as Vicnits, Australia’s first gay rugby union team.
Bill Cooper, who wore the team’s blue and white striped uniform, said, “It’s a safe space that gave me a chance to play team sports,” adding, “This is something I’ve never thought about in my life.”
When Cooper moved from local Australia to Sydney in his mid-20s, he had never played team sports or had a rugby ball. Five seasons after his hasty decision to appear in training in 2019, Cooper became a prop for the club’s freshman team.
“It’s the community that keeps me coming back. Everyone is united by their experience of being gay and their love of rugby,” he says.
Andrew “Puzz” Buying, the architect behind the criminals, founded the club in 2004 after playing for a gay team in the United States.
It’s always been about giving them the opportunity to play community, home and rugby regardless of their standards,” he says.
“We’ve always definitely helped players improve on the field and become better people on the field.”
A few weeks after Purchas started the team, Gus Donald, the team’s oldest player at the age of 47, saw an ad for a conviction in a gay magazine.
Like many gay players, the club was a lifeline to revive his passion for rugby, which waned after he graduated from high school.
Donald says, “There are a lot of boys in my situation who loved rugby at school, but after school they went to a local club and felt threatened and alienated.”
“Our ultimate goal is not to need a club, but we will be here until all gay men feel accepted by their local clubs.”
Australia won the world cup twice in 1991 and 1999, and last reached the final when they lost to New Zealand at twickenham in 2015.
Their preparations for this round have been difficult as new coach Eddie Jones is still trying to find the best team.
Wallaby, the captain of the rock giant Will Skelton, will play Georgia in Group C in Paris on September 9 before facing Fiji, Wales and Portugal.