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Gay rugby pioneer receives Order of Australia for promoting LGBT equality

Bobby Rae January 30, 2017

The founder of gay rugby club, the Sydney Convicts, has received the Order of Australia for his work in promoting LGBT equality in sport.

Chairman of International Gay Rugby (IGR), Andrew Purchas OAM, described the honour as a “reflection of the hard work a lot of people have put in to make it happen”.

Purchas helped establish the Bingham Cup, a gay rugby world cup, when playing for San Francisco Fog.

Founded in memory of Mark Bingham, one of the men who fought terrorists on board United flight 93 during the September 11 attacks, its ninth tournament will be played next year in Amsterdam.

Having played with Bingham in San Francisco, Purchas described the establishment of the cup as a life changer.

Returning to Sydney, he established the Sydney Convicts – who, on their initial outing, sent 28 to London when the 2004 Bingham Cup was hosted by the King’s Cross Steelers.

Purchas received the Order of Australia for “services to rugby union and to the promotion of social inclusion for LGBTI people”.

When describing how he found out, he said he was shocked when he received the letter.

“That’s how you’re told – a letter comes out of the blue,” he said.

“My Dad [James, a doctor] received one. My sister-in-law [athlete Jane Flemming] received one. I’m so honoured and privileged.

“It’s a great reflection of the hard work a lot of people have put in to make it happen.

“I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved over the last 15 years in promoting gay rugby and equality more generally.”

Marc Paul Stufkens, Chairman of the Bingham Cup 2018 Organizing Committee, said: “I would like to add my congratulations to Fuzz for this well-deserved honour.

“Your work is an inspiration to us, the Organizing Committee of Bingham Cup Amsterdam 2018, and to everyone promoting inclusivity in rugby all over the world.

“We all are standing on the shoulders of this Ozzie giant! Thank you for your continuing impact.”

More: Amsterdam, Andrew Purchas, Australia, Bingham Cup, gay rugby, international gay rugby, King's Cross Steelers, Sydney Convicts

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