Rugby league showed its continued commitment to eliminating homophobia in sport and creating diverse and inclusive sporting environments at the Sydney Mardi Gras last Saturday.
Individuals from rugby league, Australian Rules, rugby union, soccer and cricket united as part of the Anti-Homophobia in Sport float, with former Canterbury and Western Suburbs player Paul Langmack representing rugby league.
With the support of the NRL and the blessing of NSWRL CEO Dave Trodden and Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle, Langmack proudly wore a Bulldogs jersey to represent the NRL at Mardi Gras and said it was one of the best weekends of his life.
"It was absolutely sensational," Langmack told NRL.com.
"It's a celebration the Mardi Gras. There was no aggression, no anger and it was great fun. The messages are only going to get stronger too in that people are going to stand by you and say 'mate, it doesn't matter if you're black or white, gay or straight, everyone's there to stand by each other'."
Langmack also saw the importance in his presence and the message the float sending – that gay and lesbian people should be included in sporting circles and that they should be supported and encouraged to participate.
"The whole thing we on the float were trying to get across was that it's no big deal [to be gay or lesbian]," Langmack said.
In 2014, the five major Australian sporting codes including the NRL came together to implement the Anti-Homophobia & Inclusion Framework.
The five codes all pledged to eliminate homophobia and put forward elite athletes to work as ambassadors to help implement the framework and make it known to the Australian nation.
Andrew Purchas, a driving force behind the framework and the founder of Australia's first ever gay rugby union team the Sydney Convicts, pushed for the float to happen at Mardi Gras because of the significant and influential role sport plays in the community.
"Sport engages with almost everybody in Australia and there has been significant study that shows there is still homophobia in sport that is stopping gays and lesbians from partaking in it," Purchas told NRL.com.
"If there was a more welcoming and inclusive environment then more people would engage in sport so I think having the five sporting codes, the governing bodies and elite athletes to say your sexuality plays no part in terms of whether you should or could compete, and is no reflection on your ability, is really important."
Langmack volunteered to represent rugby league on the float, something Purchas believed added value to the overall messages the framework sets out to achieve.
"It was fantastic to have Paul on board. Through our work with the NRL he found about this, he stuck his hand up and has been fantastic and enthusiastic," Purchas said.
"He recognises there is still a lot that needs to be done.
"He has a lot of gay friends and he said there shouldn't be any reason why his gay friends shouldn't be welcomed in the sport that he loves."
NRL.com would like to thank Bingham Cup's Erik Denison for his help and support in putting this story together.