Tasmania’s sporting scene just got more diverse, with the Bushrangers Basketball Club — Australia’s largest LGBTIQA+ team — playing their first exhibition game in Hobart recently.
- Bushrangers Basketball is Australia’s largest LGBTIQA+ basketball club
- The club is aimed at providing “safe spaces for trans and gender diverse players”
- Rather than a priority on winning, the club strives for “non-competitive, fun games”
Scoutt Winter has never considered themselves “very sporty”, but when their friends told them that a LGBTIQA+ basketball club was coming to Hobart, they felt the urge to get involved.
“I hadn’t played team sports since the 90s, so I was a bit nervous to commit to something like this, but I really wanted to be part of something that was welcoming to all gender identities and sexualities,” they said.
Winter joined the Bushrangers Basketball club’s Tasmanian team last year and has not looked back.
Get all heads in the game
The Bushrangers hosted their first exhibition game as part of Tas Pride last month, featuring rainbow jerseys, a touch of glitter, and drag queens cheering from the sidelines.
The Bushrangers is Australia’s and New Zealand’s largest LGBTIQA+ basketball club, with the core goal of making community sport accessible to everyone.
The exhibition games are an opportunity for the club to show their differing rules, which include players grouped by height rather than gender.
Bushrangers Basketball Club president and founder Stella Lesic said Hobart had embraced the arrival of the team.
With support from the Glenorchy Basketball Association (GBA) and the Glenorchy City Council, Lesic said the Tas Pride game was an example of what can happen when inclusion is a priority in community sport.
“The world will continue to spin, if you let people in, and the GBA have been so accommodating with players that are in transition, so it’s been a huge success overall,” they said.
Opening up new opportunities
For Tasmanian Bushrangers players like Craig Jones, playing basketball was not something he expected to be doing.
Jones shares a previous dislike of team sports with some other Bushrangers players.
But since joining the team, he is not only a player, but now their co-captain.
Jones said he was impressed with how Tasmania embraced the Bushrangers message at their first exhibition game.
“It was great to have so many people come out and see us play, for something that hasn’t been around a long time in this state,” he said.
“There was so much acceptance and recognition of our community, which shows this is a game designed for anyone.”
Changing the rules for a court
Bushrangers founder Lesic said the club tried not to take the game too seriously.
“We aren’t an exclusive queer league, we want to be in mainstream basketball associations so we can model what inclusion should look like for other sporting clubs,” they said.
Lesic said their priority with Bushrangers was to “flip the rule book” for community basketball, and let the results speak for themselves.
“We have a strong focus on culture over skills,” they said.
“We have vulnerable players, so we’re really careful and make sure everyone knows they’re part of a team which isn’t categorised by gender.”
The Bushrangers Basketball exhibition games categorise the teams by height over gender, a system that Lesic said promoted inclusivity and had been embraced by players.
“For some players to have to align themselves with a binary gender in traditional basketball, that’s really tough,” they said.
The Bushrangers Basketball Club also has a group of “super subs”, which includes people who may be shift workers or have mental health requirements which could make it difficult for them to commit to weekly training.
“We have taken something that was previously viewed as a negative… and turned that into a positive,” Lesic said.
While the Hobart Bushrangers team is newly established, 60 people are already part of the team, and there are hopes to expand to Launceston.
Scoutt Winter wants to see the club continue to grow in Tasmania.
“It would be great to open the minds of other community sport teams in our state to make their clubs more open and accessible to people,” they said.
“I really love that about Bushrangers.”