Thompson proud to represent NRL in Mardi Gras

League supporters and players both past and present will join hundreds of thousands of people in celebrating the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney on Saturday night, as the NRL continues to support "Pride in League".

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles back-rower Joel Thompson and his wife Amy will be on hand to show their support for marriage equality, as will Jillaroos star Kezie Apps.

"I think it's important we celebrate diversity, and I believe everyone should be able to be with whomever they want," Thompson told NRL.com

"For us as an organisation, I think it's important the NRL is a part of that diversity. The reason I want to get on board with Mardi Gras is because I believe it's important for our game. It's especially important for the NRL, for us as a whole to show support as one."

Former rugby league players will also join the NRL in promoting our support for diversity. Wendell Sailor, Ian Roberts, Paul Langmack and Dene Halatau will be joined by rugby league staff members and supporters.

Thompson, who has always used his voice to promote inclusion and diversity, is adamant nobody should ever have to hide or fear being excluded because of who they are.

"No matter what your background, race, gender or religion, it shouldn't matter; everyone should feel included," he said.

The NRL's 2017 Mardi Gras float.
The NRL's 2017 Mardi Gras float. ©NRL Photos

"For the NRL, change starts with us. We're a huge part of the community, and I want to help be a part of it, my wife Amy and I are really looking forward to it."

 Thompson also touched on how pleased he was when Australian voted "yes" to same-sex marriage.

"I was proud of Australia like most of us I guess. I mean, who are we to judge who people fall in love with? It's up to the individual and I was so happy that we as Australians, came on board and supported Marriage Equality,'' he said.

I love we as a nation have embraced it even though it did take a while to get there. It's fantastic we are on board and I'm all for it."

NRL wellbeing and education manager, Paul Heptonstall confirmed this would be the fourth year that the NRL, in partnership with NSWRL, would be part of the Mardi Gras.

''One of the core beliefs of our game is inclusiveness and it’s fantastic that rugby league will once again have a presence as part of the Mardi Gras celebration,'' Heptonstall said.

''This is a momentous event for so many people within communities and I, along with many players and staff, can't wait to show our commitment in supporting one another and celebrating the occasion with our very own Pride In League float.''  

The 2018 parade float follows the NRL's decision to feature US artist Macklemore and last year's grand final. Macklemore performed his hit song ''Same Love'' in the pre-game entertainment. The song promotes inclusiveness.