An Australian rules football player has said society is developing a “sick fascination” with players’ sexuality and the culture of the game has changed to one of “great acceptance”.

Bob Murphy, 29, is a defender for the Western Bulldogs in Melbourne, part of the Australian Football League.

His comments were prompted by an interview with a former chief of a rival club who said up to one in twenty player in the Australian Football League was gay.

Bob Murphy said: “I think there’s a bit of a sick fascination.

“I hear people on the streets, about who it is and how many there is. I think that’s really irrelevant.

“It’s about accepting not just people who are gay, but from all walks of life with different outlooks.

“The culture of footy now is one that’s very accepting. This club’s one of great acceptance.”

Murphy is the youngest son of a former Catholic priest and a former nun who left their order to marry. He is married with two children.

He said the “an undertone of something that I don’t really like too much” in questions over players’ sexuality.

AFL has not had any openly gay players. The Australian rugby league game had Ian Roberts, who came out in 1995.

AFL’s Chief Executive Andrew Demetriou said: “But if a player wanted to make it public about his sexual preference then he would get absolutely nothing but support from the AFL, and nothing but support from everyone in the industry.”

At least one official has also questioned today whether speculation over whether players were gay is worthwhile.

Matti Clements, the wellbeing services manager at the AFL Players’ Association told 3AW’s Sports Today: “Bob had a really good point.

“There seems to be a real fascination with who’s going to be the first AFL player who’s going to come out and publicly acknowledge their same-sex attraction.

“I’m really surprised that there is still such a fascination with this. It’s a non-issue.”

In 2010, another Western Bulldogs star, Jason Akermanis, said that the game was not ready for a gay player following rumours one was about to be the first to come out.

He wrote in his Herald-Sun newspaper column: “If a player wants to out himself, then I say good luck.

“But I believe the world of AFL (Australian Football League) footy is not ready for it. To come out is unnecessary for a lot of reasons.

“Imagine the publicity associated with a current player admitting he’s gay. It would be international news and could break the fabric of a club.