It takes great courage and bravery to come out and admit this, especially when you are in the spotlight, but that is exactly what NRL referee Matt Cecchin has done – with the NRL grand final whistle-blower, admitting that he is gay.
Cecchin only made the decision to go public about his sexuality, once his teenage son had completed his final HSC exams.
It was after reading a copy of Ian Roberts book, ‘Finding Out’, that Cecchin told family and friends about his sexuality – with Cecchin becoming the first NRL or official since Ian Roberts in 1995, to admit that he is gay.
“Like a lot of people, I thought to be gay you had to be feminine, you had to go to nightclubs and you had to be in the scene and I was never into that,” said Cecchin.
“I played sport, I loved rugby league, I liked going to the pub with my mates.
“It wasn’t until I read Ian’s book that I started to tick a few boxes. In the early days when people found out, I would tell my mates to ask me every question they wanted answered.
“And there were some good ones, especially after a couple of schooners.
“Sure, sometimes it was uncomfortable. My old man played reserve grade for Newtown and comes from far North Queensland.
“I thought he’d take it really, really badly, but he was fantastic.”
Cecchin also said that he had a fear that he would be questioned about it, in the lead-up to the grand final – though he would have denied had he been asked, because his son at the time, was in the middle of his HSC exams.
“I didn’t want to tip his world upside down,” Cecchin said. “As a Dad, I would do whatever I could to protect my son.
“He’s been so good to me about it. It hasn’t made the world of difference to him.
“I just wanted to do whatever I could to make sure he got through school OK. I think any parent would understand that.”
With a lot of verbal banter on the field at times, Cecchin also said that he was not subject to any sledging about his sexuality, nor does he expect to be sledged, now that he has revealed it.
“I can honestly say I’ve never ever heard or been called anything to do with being gay on the field,” Cecchin said.
“I haven’t been treated any differently. I haven’t been treated as a token and I haven’t been discriminated against.
“I’d be very surprised if I was the only gay person in rugby league. I don’t know, but I respect people’s privacy.
“But me coming out has nothing to do with other people that may or may not be gay in rugby league.
“It has to do with the youth that are growing up today that may be going through a whole world of hurt and fear.
“My experience is they don’t need to be. People are OK with it now.
“You only have to look at the statistics to see that you’re five to six times more likely to commit suicide if you are gay as a teenager.”
Being involved in League for 20 years, Cecchin has learnt that ignoring what the fans may say, is easier said than done – as he is oblivious to what they say and yell out.
“The odd comment might come from the hill now maybe, but I’ve been called every name under the sun from there anyway,” he said.
“I just hope that those people realise that when they’re yelling out what they do, you don’t know who’s standing or sitting beside you.
“Give me a hard time for making a stuff-up, but just be mindful of others.”