FILM REVIEW: Steelers – the world’s first gay rugby club

WORTH A LOOK?: *****

RELEASED: Friday 16 April 2021

AVAILABLE: on Amazon Prime

RUNTIME: 80 minutes

There’s a universality about Australian journalist Eammon Ashton-Atkinson’s documentary film which he best expresses as being about finding happiness where you least expect it.

  • Read on for reasons including how sport can improve mental health and cross gender boundaries

We’re not big rugby fans which is not a problem here because although the action is structured around a 3-day tournament it is the stories of those involved which feature predominantly here.

In 1995 in a pub in London’s King’s Cross a group of friends discussed creating the world’s 1st gay rugby team. More than 100 teams refused to play them but the story of the Kings Cross Steelers over the following quarter of a century is 1 that reflects the more accepting time in which we now live.

Our story is set in Amsterdam where 60 clubs like the Steelers meet for The Bingham Cup, the world tournament of gay rugby.

Head coach Nic is a former player herself and is willing the team on in her last tournament in that role. She reflects on how her position can sometimes be overlooked because of her gender in even this more accepting environment.

Simon struggles with his mental health after a difficult coming out to a childhood friend but finds strength in rugby and is unequivocal in the vital role the club plays for him: ‘This club and this season probably saved my life.’

Drew is a stocky prop by day and a glamorous drag queen by night and his experience shows that even gay rugby players can question whether there are aspects of gay male life that are too feminine.

Weaved within this is Ashton-Atkinson’s own story of growing up gay, finding strength in difference and bonding in a sporting environment that was unexpected.

The framing device of finding happiness where you least expect it is neatly illustrated by the film only coming about because Ashton-Atkinson was injured in the run-up to the event which is why he was able to capture it on camera rather than being out on the pitch.

The trust placed in him by his teammates is best illustrated by the candid stories he manages to elicit from those we meet along the way.

We’ve praised film/play The Pass and play Oddshaped Balls for examining the gay experience through sport and Steelers is a welcome addition to the genre all the more heartwarming for being so authentic.

  • Picture courtesy The Steelers
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