GWS Giants Tom Green prepares to handball in an AFL match. (Supplied)
GWS Giants Tom Green prepares to handball in an AFL match. (Supplied)
5 min read

After the recent furore in the Australian Football League (AFL) about players and officials using homophobic language on the ground, both clubs and the league have been criticised for the lack of concrete actions they are taking to mitigate incidents of homophobia.

Although the AFL Players Association (AFLPA) have extensive programs and policies in place to assist all players, as we saw last week, they don’t have direct influence over players and so the burden falls on the league and clubs to take those actions.

Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants is one such AFL club that has taken action and has embedded an inclusive and safe culture into all facets of their operation. As one of the most recent clubs (which commenced playing in 2012) to start in the AFL and having an AFL women’s and netball team early in the structure has helped the expectations to be set very early.


GWS Giants midfielder Tom Green spoke with Gay Nation and believes the Giants have created an inclusive environment.

“Since I’ve been at the club we’ve had a women’s team and a netball team which I think helps create diversity within the club,” Green said.

“We’ve also got a wide variety of people from a whole bunch of different upbringings and backgrounds that created a really inclusive environment.”

The 23-year-old, born in Townsville before growing up in Canberra, feels that it is also generational and that people of his age naturally are more accepting, but he explained at the start of every year the players complete online training modules to refresh and keep the players up to date on diversity and inclusion.

“I feel like as a 23-year-old, my generation understands better than any other generation what is and what isn’t acceptable.

“I can only speak from a male AFL player’s perspective but we also have education at the start of every season that we complete. The online modules are just about giving different examples of basically what is and what isn’t acceptable and to keep us all up to date.

“There are also examples of what constitutes homophobia and different things like that to make sure that we’re completely up to date on things that might be archaic.

“I think it’s just about continuing to educate people on that sort of stuff.”

Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants player Tom Green celebrates a goal in the AFL. (Supplied)
Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants player Tom Green celebrates a goal in the AFL. (Supplied)

AFL Player Responsibility

Green was part of the Giants Football Academy and in 2019 was taken by the Giants at pick ten in the AFL Draft. He has grown into one of the competition’s best midfielders finishing the 2023 season as number one in the AFL in both average disposals per game (32) and average contested possessions (14.95).

As a member of the Giants leadership group, Green knows how important it is for a footballer to perform not only on the football field but also off the field.

“Whether you like it or not when you’re in the public eye you are a role model and you have a responsibility to act accordingly and so I think to be up to date and informed on these sorts of issues is really important,” Green continued.

“Then also, it’s a shame, in the AFL men’s competition that we haven’t had an openly gay player at any point. I think statistically there almost certainly would be and so for those players, it’s a shame they don’t feel comfortable being out right now but you’ve still got to be inclusive and understand that you can’t say certain things as it may make them feel uncomfortable and it may make people around the club uncomfortable.

“We’ve got people in leadership positions [at the Giants] who are members of the LGBTIQA+ community so you know we have to be respectful of all people.”

Green talked about how he would act if a fellow player confided in him about being gay.

“I think the most important thing if that was happening, it hasn’t happened to me but if that was happening, I think the most important thing I would tell that person is they’ve got to be comfortable with whatever they’re doing.

“I would like to think that with the environment we have the Giants, they would be comfortable to do that.

“I’m not going to direct this person to somebody and make them do something that they don’t want to do. The first thing I would say is, ‘I appreciate you feeling comfortable enough to tell me, what do you want to do with it, how do you feel about it, is there anything I can do to help, what are you most comfortable with’ because I think that’s probably the most important thing whether you are a part of the LGBTIQA+ community or not is you want to be in an environment that you feel comfortable in.”

With the AFL men’s competition bereft of openly gay players many look to other sports for inspiration like Ian Roberts in NRL or Josh Cavalla in Soccer, for Green that inspiration is closer to home.

“I would look within at our women’s team. I look at the way that they go about it and it’s really inspirational. I look at what they do and the inclusive environment they have and I think that’s something that we’re still not at the level they are and I think we can take real inspiration from them.”

AFL Needs Pride Round to Combat Homophobia

Just like the AFL Women’s competition, many have suggested an AFL Men’s Pride Round, not just a one-off game per year, would be a way to shine a larger spotlight onto homophobia in sport and help all members of the rainbow community feel more included. Green agreed.

“I think it would help, as we’ve already spoken about in terms of creating an inclusive environment I think that would only help for men that may be part of the LGBTIQA+ community, that are playing our game, it would help them feel more comfortable within because they understand that the entire industry is behind them which I think would only be beneficial.

“I think at the Giants we have one of the most if not the most diverse supporter groups because of the region or where we’re based and where our support comes from and inclusive of that is the LGBTIQA+ community.

“We absolutely love having everybody come and support us at the Giants and it doesn’t matter what your background is, what your sexuality is, we’re a team that hopefully we’re role models to everyone in the community, from all backgrounds and sexualities.”



All 18 clubs were contacted to gain some insight into the actions they are taking to help players and officials tackle homophobia in sport. The Giants were the only club to offer up a player to speak.

From the 18 clubs, only five clubs responded, noticeably none from Victoria, with two, Adelaide and Gold Coast responding without comment.

Port Adelaide Football Club, which was at the centre of the Jeremy Finlayson storm two weeks ago, to their credit did respond, pointing to all of the media comments they had made on the issue and showing a willingness for the whole playing group to undergo extra education in this space.

The Sydney Swans, which have played in the competition’s only Pride Game since 2016 provided a detailed statement (below) as to the actions their club makes to combat homophobia.

The Sydney Swans are proud to have been playing in the Pride Game since 2016. The aim of the match is to support the LGBTIQA+ community and ensure everyone feels welcome, safe, and included at the football.

LGBTIQA+ Pride is a key pillar of the club’s Diversity Action Plan. The chair of our Rainbow Swans supporter group, Sarina Jackson, is an integral part of our DAP Committee and was our club’s No. 1 ticket holder in 2023.

Specific initiatives as part of our DAP have included welcoming guest speakers to our club, such as members of our Rainbow Swans, footballer Jason Ball, and soccer star Josh Cavallo, to speak with our staff and athletes about how to create safe, inclusive, and welcoming environments, meanwhile through our partnership with Twenty10 we have facilitated education sessions on LGBTIQA+ inclusion.

We encourage all football fans to call out abuse and stand together for pride. Through education and understanding we can help everyone feel welcome at the football.

After numerous approaches, Gay Nation has still not had a response from the AFL.

Last Updated on Apr 18, 2024

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