In an Australian first, rival football teams Yarra Glen and Yarra Junction gathered last Saturday to celebrate inclusion and community diversity in the inaugural Pride Cup held at the Yarra Glen Football Club.
Yarra Glen is the team of openly gay footballer Jason Ball, who came out publicly two years ago to highlight the mental health impact homophobia has both on and off the sporting field. His ‘coming out’ was met with strong support from his teammates and challenged the AFL to address homophobia at all levels of the game.
The game, part of the Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League was easily won by Yarra Glen 17.15 (117) to 2.14 (26). Following the game, the Pride Cup was presented to Yarra Glen by Carlton footballer Brock McLean. Brendan James was awarded the Pride Medal for his on-field performance.
Despite the rain, the two teams and local community were more than supportive of Saturday’s game, with rainbow flags flying proudly around the perimeter of the ground, and the Yarra Ranges Council painting the 50 metre lines in rainbow colours.
Earlier in the day, the Australian Football League hosted a luncheon attended by a number of Community Organisations including Pride March Victoria, Midsumma, PFLAG, Team Melbourne and JOY 94.9, as well as representatives from the Yarra Glen and Yarra Junction Football Clubs, the Australian Football League, Beyond Blue, Yarra Ranges Council and the ANZ Bank.
Brock McLean, the events key-note speaker said it was incredible to see such “a landmark shift” in AFL players speaking up for equality in sport in recent times.
“Days like today and the Pride Cup … you can’t really put into words what it means for one, the gay community, and two, just for that message of acceptance in sport,” McLean said.
“It’s one thing for a gay person to stand up for gay rights but it holds so much more weight and power when a straight person stands up for gay rights.”
Image: Jason Ball (centre) and the Yarra Glen Football Club with the Pride Cup following the game.