It’s no secret that I love rugby union. My family and I have been to five Rugby World Cups. I’ve spent more hours on sidelines of school and club games than I could ever count and we’ve been Reds members since 2004. Our next big game is the Wallabies vs France at Suncorp Stadium in July. I have watched a LOT of rugby and thought I’d seen it all. Yet Eammon Ashton – Atkinson’s documentary Steelers gave me a new perspective on why I love this game.
Eamonn’s is the syrupy voice you may have heard on your nightly news , reporting for 10 News First live from London and Europe and now based in the USA. He has a frenetic job as a breaking news reporter. He also comes from my hometown of Brisbane and began his career studying law at Griffith University. Eammon, who is of Australian and Malaysian heritage, became a solicitor after practicing law in Sydney. Three years later he began a career in journalism as a cadet reporter for Channel 7. Now he’s an award winning documentary maker with his own film company. He is also a gay man with a great love of rugby.
This is where his new film called Steelers comes in. On moving to London Eammon joined the King’s Cross Steelers gay rugby club. Steelers is an amazing club that was founded in 1995. It came about when a group of friends were in a pub and discussed the idea of a gay rugby club. From that idea Steelers was born. It was the first rugby club of its kind and has helped many gays find confidence, acceptance and in Eammon’s case helped him rediscover his love for the game and also love. Eammon met his husband, John Ashton through the club. There are now sixty gay rugby clubs around the world.
In this documentary Eammon follows the Steelers to Amsterdam where they are vying for the coveted Bingham Cup. Every two years gay rugby clubs from around the world meet for the world tournament of gay rugby.The team in 2018 is the strongest they have fielded for years, having had an unbeaten run during their regular season.They hope to be holding the cup aloft at the end of the tournament.
Eammon follows the stories of Coach Nic Evans, who just happens to be a Welsh gay woman, who has played for her country. She has coached the team for three years and her love for her team and the game is unwavering. Next is Simon Jones, a sensitive, beautiful soul and fleet footed back who bravely and honestly shares his story. Then there’s Drew McDowell, prop by day, drag queen by night. Drew has a unique story of his own which is both uplifting and poignant. Lastly there’s Eammon, who shares some truly touching stories of growing up and coming out and finding his place in London when he joins the club.
I cried bucketloads watching this touching documentary which has been made with such care and love. There is plenty of rugby but you don’t have to be a rugby enthusiast to watch this story. It’s a story of finding your place, your tribe and being accepted and loved for who you are. It’s also funny with the personalities of all the players and the banter between mates and teams shining through.
This gem of a film is an inspiring testament to the power of teamwork and friendship and shows that there is much more to the sport than what you see on the field. You will connect with this deeply personal story and be thinking about it long after the credits roll. It’s a must see from me but please take your tissues. I have not cried so hard in years.
Thank you to Eammon for sadly being sidelined with injury, as it has allowed us a glimpse into his world. The engaging and uplifting documentary Steelers is available to rent or buy on streaming services from July 7.
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).