- Colin Fraser
STEELERS: THE WORLD'S FIRST GAY RUGBY CLUB
THREE STARS Join anniversary celebrations of the world's first gay rugby club during the Bingham Cup. DOCUMENTARY UK #STEELERS
Starring the Steelers Rugby Team
This passion project from writer / director Eammon Ashton-Atkinson charts the rise and rise of his beloved men’s rugby team, The Steelers. Two points of difference mark his accomplished documentary in that A) The Steelers were England’s first gay rugby team and B) Ashton-Atkinson is Australian.
The narrative revolves around the 2018 Bingham Cup (gay rugby’s ‘world’ cup) which pitted The Steelers against, among others, Sydney’s Convicts. It was going to be a hot contest that offered plenty of jumping off points to explore his relationship with the UK, with rugby, his journey as a gay man as well as that of the (female) coach and a couple of key players. Themes of rejection, finding support and coming out pervade.
Unusually, STEELERS is the kind of film that invites you to assess how you might tell the story differently. You question threads that are left hanging, those that are not pursued and how much more you want to learn about some of the players. That Ashton-Atkinson creates this provocation then uses director’s privilege to insert himself into his narrative is interesting.
That’s not to say he overwhelms the documentary. He doesn’t. A lot is learned about the team, its history, the players, their courage and personal growth that can be afforded by the bonds of team sport and friendship. That it leaves you wanting more is no bad thing. A little frustrating perhaps, but certainly not a show-stopper. That award is given to team’s prop and part-time drag queen Drew McDowell.