Bondi View

Bingham rugby brings best out of Bondi

The Sydney Convicts rugby team / Photo: Edwin Monk

Pulling up his socks, rolling up his sleeves and grinning from ear to ear, Andrew Purchas is excited.

Having lived in Bondi for the last 18 years, the Chairman of the Bingham Cup Sydney Bid Committee could not be happier with the way gay rugby has evolved in Australia. With the 2014 Bingham Gay Rugby Cup set to play at Woollahra and Rose Bay, Mr Purchas said the event was a fantastic opportunity for the Waverley community to get on board, particularly with the aim to make it accessible for all.

Home of the Eastern Suburbs Rugby Union Club, Woollahra Ovals 1, 2, and 3 are set to host the three-day event.

Mr Purchas said it will appeal to local residents who can finally witness an exciting, world-renowned event in the eastern suburbs.

“Our mission is to make rugby available to as many people as possible,” Mr Purchas said. “We thought that gay men weren’t playing rugby because they didn’t feel that they were welcome.”

The Bingham Cup is a bi-annual tournament promoting nondiscrimination by encouraging diversity and sportsmanship while challenging perceptions of gay male identity in sport. The announcement was made on October 12, with the bid successfully led by current world champions, the Sydney Convicts.

The bid has received the support of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and was endorsed by Federal Member for Wentworth, Malcolm Turnbull.

“Winning the rights to host the 2014 Bingham Cup is a great result for the Sydney Convicts and for Sydney,” Mr Turnbull said. “This will be one of the biggest events for the city and eastern suburbs since we hosted the beach volleyball in the [Sydney] 2000 Olympics.”

With more than 200 registered supporters and 100 members at the club, the Sydney Convicts are looking to build on the momentum and gain further support for gay rugby in Australia.

Having founded the Sydney Convicts in 2004,  Mr Purchas said new players, sponsors and tournament volunteers were always welcome as the club seeks to expand its influence and strengthen its ties with the local community.

“Bondi forms a very strong connection with the club,” he said. “We do training down at Bondi during the pre-season [and] the grounds we play at are a stone’s throw away from Bondi Beach.”

Having lived in Bondi, Rose Bay and Bellevue Hill, Andrew’s love for rugby came from a young age. As a kid, Mr Purchas played in the under 7s rugby division in Canberra, followed by several years playing for Woollahra College and then the University of Sydney First XV.

“I was about six foot when I was six, so it was almost that I had to play,” he said. “I played as the youngest of two older brothers … We played rugby constantly in the backyard. It [seemed] natural that I’d be signed into one of the football codes and [rugby] was the most convenient.”

His team, the Sydney Convicts, are comprised of two groups of 25, with ten first XV team members currently living within the eastern suburbs.

Waverley local and Convicts player, Lachlan McGregor said the tournament would be a great asset to the community through the promotion of good values and an inclusive nature.

“It’s been great to meet some new people and realise you can do whatever you want, no matter what sexuality you are, no matter who you are.”

In a 2009 survey of the Sydney Convicts team, 85 per cent said they would not be playing rugby if they were not playing with the Convicts. Mr Purchas said the Sydney Convicts sends out a positive message to the community as the club hopes to raise its profile, particularly in light of the upcoming tournament.

And why is the Bingham Cup important?

“It’s not just about playing rugby, it’s about building a stronger, safer and more harmonious community,” Mr Purchas said. “And that’s what we’ve strived to do.”

For more information, visit the Sydney Convicts home page at www.sydneyconvicts.org