McGregor crash-tackles stereotypes as Sydney gears up for Bingham Cup

On the up … Lachlan McGregor, lifted, with his teammates from the Sydney Convicts at the Opera House. Their bid for Sydney to host the 2014 Bingham Cup was backed by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.COMING out almost cost Lachlan McGregor his love of rugby.

The Sydney Convicts outside-centre played every year while attending Scots College, and spent a season with Woollahra Colleagues when he studied at University of Sydney but quit just before he told his friends and family that he was gay.

”I didn’t know of anyone else in the team that was gay, I felt quite different,” McGregor said. ”It wasn’t like I thought I would be paid out or persecuted if I came out, but I just felt like a lot of the guys in that team would be uncomfortable with it, so I kept quiet.”

Now 23 years old and comfortable with his sexuality, McGregor admits his own prejudices played a part in the problem. ”I guess I bought into the stereotypes that gays can’t play sport or can’t play rugby well, so I declared to myself that I wouldn’t play again because gay people can’t play,” he said.

Even when he found the Convicts, Australia’s first gay rugby club, McGregor thought playing in a team of gay men would be too ”confronting”.

It took the encouragement of friends and family, and self-acceptance for the commerce student to change his mind.

”It was just ignorance and a lack of education that made me think that way,” he said. ”Once you meet the people that play in that team, the worry and the stereotypes fade away … 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.”

McGregor credits the Convicts with turning him from an average player to a member of a grand final-winning, third-division suburban team.

This year he went on his first rugby tour with the world champion Convicts side and says he would not miss the chance to play in the next gay rugby world cup, in Sydney in 2014.

”It will be awesome if the one this year [in Manchester] is anything to go by,” he said.

”It felt really great to be a part of a gay rugby tournament where you know that everyone’s not necessarily there because they’re gay but because they love rugby first.”

The Bingham Cup will attract to Sydney up to 1500 players across about 40 teams in August 2014.

The Colleagues and Eastern Suburbs will host games at their Rose Bay ovals, with the help of the Melbourne Chargers and Brisbane Hustlers rugby clubs, in their own cities.

The Convicts’ bid for Sydney to host the tournament was backed by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, the federal member for Wentworth, Malcolm Turnbull, Australian Rugby Union board member John Eales, Wallabies breakaway David Pocock, NSW Rugby Union chairman Nick Farr-Jones, Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore and the NSW Governor Marie Bashir.

”In many respects the Bingham Cup is more than just a rugby tournament,” Eales said. ”It is an important demonstration of mutual respect and diversity which has always been part of the rugby community. Regardless of the football code you would like to play, sexuality should be irrelevant consideration. Unfortunately this is not a reality and there is still work to be done to eliminate negative stereotypes and homophobia in sport.”

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