This Saturday, Bentleigh Football Netball Club will host the marquee matches during the SFNL’s third annual Pride Round.
The themed round aims to celebrate diversity and inclusion within the sporting fraternity, and the Demons jumped at the opportunity to be involved with its Men’s and Women’s footy and netball teams.
Both the club’s Senior Men’s and Women’s teams will wear specially designed Pride Round jumpers for their matches against Cheltenham and Lyndhurst, while rainbow 50m arcs and goal post padding will also be a prominent feature.
Bentleigh’s netballers will be wearing rainbow bibs in their Division 4 and Division 8 contests, and the Rosellas and the Lightning will also be involved, with players from both sides set to wear rainbow socks.
But these initiatives are not simply cosmetic gimmicks, rather they are emblematic of the Bentleigh Football Netball Club’s commitment to cultivating an inclusive atmosphere in which all people can feel welcome within the club.
Through her own personal experiences, Bentleigh women’s star Anuschka Reinhardt certainly feels passionate about the upcoming SFNL themed round and her club’s involvement.
“I think it’s an amazing experience to be a part of. I obviously have a very personal connection to it, I have my own story about it. I came out when I was 18, I’m 26 now, I have gone through a journey with that whole experience.” Reinhardt said.
“Sport was always something that I have done my whole life and I guess having those two (aspects) intertwined was really important to me and sport, and especially footy, has given me actually a safe space to sort of be accepted in and go through that journey.”
Reinhardt says that while coming out was difficult, she feels fortunate that her family were incredibly supportive of her, which unfortunately not everybody in her position is able to experience.
She came out to her brother first, with whom she is very close friends, and he in turn told her parents, which made it easier, but, as she says, “you never really stop sharing that part of yourself with people that you meet.”
“Every new person that you meet, you share that story of yourself. They assume you might have a partner, it might be a boyfriend or a male, and when that’s not the case you sort of come out all over again.”
Bentleigh's Anuschka Reinhardt (left) receives her SFNL interleague jumper from Collingwood AFLW Captain Steph Chiocci
Reinhardt joined Bentleigh last season with her partner, Sarah Davis, and has so far had a terrific experience at Arthur Street.
“It was almost like we were just two football players playing footy, and that is what I loved about it, everything else didn’t really matter. You go out on that field, you are teammates, that’s it, you support each other out there so I really loved that aspect,” she said.
“It’s the same off the field, it’s that community vibe and, you know, that’s sort of what’s made us feel really comfortable and everyone’s been supportive, we haven’t really felt any different, which has just been brilliant.”
When Reinhardt learned that Bentleigh would host the 2019 Pride Cup, she was understandably proud of the whole club’s eagerness to embrace the occasion for several reasons, not least her own personal connection to the cause.
“When I heard that Bentleigh actually gets to do the Pride Round, I didn’t think that I would have such a big reaction within myself but I actually did. I got really proud and a little bit emotional as well when it got shared with me because it is close to home, and we don’t necessarily always get these opportunities to be a part of something like that,” she revealed.
“So for our footy club, for Bentleigh to be that club that’s involved I think just sets a great precedent for everyone in the community and for everyone in Bentleigh that’s a value that we stand for and… there’s no grey area with that – we are just inclusive and we accept diversity and at community level, what better thing is there?
“We are all super proud to be a part of it and I think everyone will wear the jerseys with pride, (both) men and women, and we all stand for the same value, which is just fantastic.
“I think it’s so important for the whole club to get involved, and not just have one team or the other, and that’s what Bentleigh has managed to achieve for this time and it is just amazing.”
Reinhardt also acknowledged the great work of the AFL, and particularly the St Kilda and Sydney Swans Football Clubs, for bringing their Pride themed matches into national focus.
The fact that the Pride theme is also filtering down into the community level with initiatives such as the SFNL Pride Round is also wonderful because, as Reinhardt notes, it helps encourage sporting clubs to provide safe spaces for people to feel comfortable being themselves.
For too long, people within the LGBTIQ sphere have self-excluded from team sports because they feel uncomfortable sharing that part of themselves with others, and events like the Pride Cup really help in showcasing the inclusive culture of sporting clubs like the Bentleigh Football Netball Club.
“You think about 95% of people that (Pride Round) might not have an impact on, but you’ve really got to work toward that percentage of people who might not feel comfortable with themselves, and they get to see that on TV, they get to see it’s so open, and that it’s not just about the LGBTIQ community,” Reinhardt said.
“I think its overall accepting diversity as well… and I think it’s a safe space for them to be like ‘you know what, if I am playing footy, if I am in this environment, I’m gonna get accepted and I’m not gonna get judged on that. It will be more about the sport and who I am as a person.’
“That’s the beautiful thing about footy; accepting diversity is a given, but footy is another way of aiding that movement and really breaking down those barriers and saying, we all play footy, we are all human beings, let’s all start supporting each other and it doesn’t matter what you’re about or what your sexual orientation is whatever, you know it’s all positive.”
Bentleigh will be hosting a Pride Cup Function at Arthur Street at 12pm, with former Hawthorn star Lance Picioane and Proud2Play’s Bowie Stover the guest speakers.
The opening bounce of the Bentleigh V Cheltenham Senior men’s match is at 1:30pm, with the Women’s match between Bentleigh and Lyndhurst to commence at 4pm.