‘Honoured and excited,’ is how the Falcons Rugby Club President Brad Christensen described his reaction after being told the club has been nominated for the Mitre 10 New Zealand Community of the Year award.
“It’s quite overwhelming. The club and the team are extremely proud to get another platform to be recognised” he said
The Falcons Rugby team was founded in 2013 to promote acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community in rugby, following in the footsteps of Wellington's Krazy Knights and Auckland's Ponsonby Heroes, New Zealand's first and second gay rugby teams.
When the Heroes disbanded there was an absence of rugby options for gay men in the city wanting to play in a safe, friendly environment.
Christensen of Ngāti Raukawa says that the team draws on core Māori principles.
“We provide a space not only for gay and trans players but it’s a team and club open to our allies and supporters alike to be a part of a kaupapa that is strong around manaakitanga,”
He has held the leadership position with The Falcons since 2019. In his time with the team, he has seen a positive shift in attitudes by the rugby community.
“When I first played for The Falcons, I was exposed to some homophobic slurs while playing and that was sort of in the first few games. But over the three years, I have been involved, clubs have been like, ‘oh you fullahs are cool’.”
Christensen says the Falcons are more than just a rugby team, they foster new players, encourage participation and learning together, all in an inclusive and non-discriminatory environment.
“Without clubs like the Flacons we can’t express ourselves. So it’s hugely important for us to find a space to participate and for me, it’s been a big part of my growth”
The Falcons are affiliated with the Ponsonby Rugby Club and their focus remains to help tackle discrimination and prejudice and to create a safe space for the rainbow community to play rugby. Christensen says
“Some of the old thinking is still quite homophobic but as the falcons, we’ve been able to help educate across the board. The more we educate and represent the more there will be understanding”
The winners of the Mitre 10 community award will be announced at a gala dinner in Auckland in March.