Diving in with the Rainbow Sharks

We speak with Rainbow Sharks President Gerry Ebert about the team’s history, how they welcome new LGBTIQ+ players to rugby union, and their hopes to compete in Rome and Perth.

How was the club started?

So there were a few people that started with the Adelaide Uni Rugby Club that wanted to create a safe space for gay and LGBTIQ+ people to come along, play and learn the sport of rugby.

They started the ‘come try’ day. I think the first time we did that, we had seven people. In the first iteration of the Sharks, they had a few players from other grades within the club as well as those new players. We’ve just been able to grow from there.

How did you first get involved?

When I heard there was an inclusive rugby team here in South Australia, I started going along. At that time I was going through a weight loss journey myself. I’d just had a gastric sleeve surgery, so I was wanting to get back into playing sport as I grew up playing rugby back in Queensland.

So, when I was able to, I was back in the gym training. And then once the ‘come try’ days happened at the end of that season, I jumped on board and haven’t looked back since.

What other teams in Adelaide do you play against?

We play in the third division of the Rugby Union SA. We play other teams around Adelaide like Barossa, Burnside, Brighton, North Torrens and [Southern Suburbs] as well. So there’s a really good, healthy third-grade competition here in Adelaide that we play against.

How important is that competition compared to being a social group?

I think with the Sharks, I think it’s more of a 50/50 split. While we all love getting out there and winning, it’s also just about being around each other and being that rugby family that we like to all feel safe and inclusive with.

We also have a great partnership because we’re part of the Adelaide University Rugby Club. The wider club (which has premiere grade and reserve grade teams) really gets around us and supports the Sharks outside of playing together.

How does the club keep social?

We have social events probably once a month, whether it’s just going to the pub and having dinner with each other or catching up for a few drinks after a training session.

Recently, we had our end-of-season drinks at a pub where quite a few of us got together. You’ll also find most of us out on a Saturday night after games boogying at Mary’s or Night Call. A lot of friendships have been formed coming out of the Sharks.

How did the club stay connected through Adelaide’s lockdown periods and COVID restrictions?

We were doing coaching events over Zoom and just watching rugby videos. We also have a big player’s chat which has every player over the last four years, so there’s always a lot of good chat about rugby. The coaches were also sending out videos. It helped people still feel involved which was really good.

Are the Sharks hoping to play at the Bingham and Purchas Cups down the track?

Last year we had five of the Sharks players go over and play with the Vancouver Rogues as part of Bingham. Unfortunately, we were unable to submit a team last year, but we do have a big push this year for Perth Purchas in September.

Do you need to be a student at Adelaide University to be involved?

Obviously, you get a discount if you are a student on your player’s fees and things like that. But you don’t have to be a student to play.

What would you say to anyone interested but maybe hesitant to join?

Come along to just see a training session. I know we had a ‘come try’ day the week after Picnic in the Park this year and had 11 new people come along that are want to learn or just see what rugby is about.

Our pre-season is going to be a good mix of learning all the new stuff while keeping the older Sharks still fresh and competitive.

Our new head coach Brian is working on a really great plan of making sure that everyone’s looked after when we come to pre-season and no one, even if they’re new, will be put in a position where they’re going to get hurt or anything like that. We’ll actually teach the proper way of playing rugby, so it’ll actually make it safe for you to play.

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