A Dublin man, who suffered cruel jibes and homophobic taunts throughout his childhood, has been hailed as the star of a poignant new documentary film, charting the personal journey of members of Australia’s most famous gay rugby club.
By Nick Bramhill
Pearse Egan, 26, had always avoided playing sports while growing up in Ireland because of the constant torment and bullying he suffered from some of his classmates.
But after settling in Australia last year, he was persuaded to try his hand at rugby for the first time with The Sydney Convicts, a successful club and the first of its kind in Australia to openly embrace gay players. His memory of walking into the classroom and spotting the words ‘Pearse is Gay’ scrawled on the blackboard marked the start of the darkest period of his life.
The homophobic taunts were at their most intense on the sports field, forcing the Dubliner to avoid the team games he craved to be a part of in his final years at school.
While in Australia last year, he was persuaded to try his hand at the sport for the first time by joining up with The Sydney Convicts, the first club of its kind in Australia to openly embrace gay players.
The positive experience was life-changing. It gave him a feeling of self-worth and acceptance for the first time in his life.
In fact, he has emerged as the charismatic star of a poignant new documentary film, charting the personal journey of several members of The Sydney Convicts.
Recalling his darkest childhood days, he said: “I still have nightmares about my time at school. One of my earliest memories at primary school was one day when every child in my class received a birthday invitation, except me. I was very upset and couldn’t understand why nobody liked me or called me ‘different’.
However, Pearse said he’s finally learned to believe in himself thanks to his uplifting experience with The Sydney Convicts, which is being featured in the fly-on-the-wall documentary ‘Scrum’.
He said: “I have to say that I have become a different person thanks to joining the club. I have a belief in myself which I never did before. When I walked down to training, people would say ‘hello’ to me. I’m not saying that everybody liked me on each of the teams, but if somebody did have an aversion to me, it was because our personalities clashed, rather than a reaction to my sexuality. They didn’t dislike me because they thought I had a disease or because they feared they’d be taunted if they were seen with me.
“I’ve had so many knocks to my confidence over the years that I do have issues with how I look to other people, but this started to change after I joined the Convicts. I now see myself in a different light.
‘Scrum’ will open the Iris Prize film festival in Cardiff next month [Oct 7], which has adopted a rugby-theme to coincide with the Rugby World Cup. Talks are also underway to screen the documentary on RTE at a later date.
*A longer version of this interview will run in the November issue of GCN.
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