Scrum traces the success of the Sidney Convicts Rugby Team as they participate in the Bingham Cup Tournament in 2014 is probably one of the most uplifting LGBT documentaries for a very long time . It’s very essence is embedded in a story of hope, and how something so intrinsically wonderful came out of tragedy after the world learnt of the bravery of Mark Bingham who fought to save one of the planes that crashed in the terrorists attacks of 9/11. Mark, an out gay man, had a passion for rugby and had been the co-founder of two gay-inclusive rugby teams and so a movement that quickly grew wanting to honor his memory decided on the Bingham Cup to be played for by gay rugby clubs, even though there were only 6 of them in existence at the time.
Fast forward to 2014, and now their are 60 gay inclusive clubs worldwide and they all have their eyes on the Bingham Cup, which is still more about diversity and acceptance in sport than it is about winning. As documentarian Poppy Stockwell starts filming the players as they train for the tournament, she succeeds in getting these big burly sportsmen opening up to her on camera and showing their very vulnerable sides.
She hones in on three players in particular. Aki who simply Googled ‘gay rugby’ a couple of years ago and when he discovered the existence of the Sydney Club, worked his socks off until he could afford a ticket from Japan to come to Australia to become a member of the team. He has a charming innocent modesty about him and as he seems like a loner, it is very touching to discover halfway through the film, that he has found himself a live-in boyfriend.
There is hefty Pease who despite his size was always being bullied as a kid and was tired of being put down. He has a wicked sense of humor and is a popular teammate who is not afraid to let his emotions show. The third sportsman is a handsome Canadian jock called Brendan who was a star player in a straight rugby team until his colleagues dropped him once they discovered he was gay.
What strikes you most in all the scenes of the team’s extensive and exhausting training, is the sheer infectious camaraderie. Even when they know that the whole squad cannot be picked to play in the team for the competition, they are all genuinely happy for the ones who made the cut even if they didn’t.
As the Team progresses through the tournament ……. now in its 7th year with 1000 participants from 15 countries ….. spirits are high as they never lose a single game. Come the day of the final, it is not their winning skills on the field that is as important as the sharing they all do in the changing room before kick-off. As part of the pre-match routine each of the players recount how playing rugby, and being part of this team in particular, has so enriched their lives and that for once in their life they are totally comfortable in just being themselves. It’s obviously not easy for these hunky men to come clean about all this, and most of them struggle to hold back the tears, which very few people watching them will be able to succeed in doing.
Empowering these gay man in such a manner like this is a very fitting tribute to Mark Bingham, although from what we now know of him, he would probably be embarrassed that he was getting all the credit for it.
On a lighter note, who knew that rolling around in the mud in the pouring rain chasing a ball whilst being chased by a bunch of hefty men until every part of your body ached in agony, could be so much fun?
P.S. See also these related pieces http://www.queerguru.com/2015/09/gareth-thomas-never-alone