Bullies and drag queens and bears, oh my! These are the ingredients of Steelers, a documentary that celebrates the brutal pride of Australia’s renowned gay rugby team. The film’s director, Eammon Ashton-Atkinson, was a sports enthusiast as a young lad, but his love of the game was crushed by his first crush.
A fellow rugby mate filmed himself having sex with Eammon and shared the video with their entire school. The adolescent suffered treacherous bullying until he abandoned athletics along with his will to live. Despite being dragged “to the brink” of despair, Eammon bravely carried on. He became a successful reporter, but the skeletons from his closet continued to haunt him.
The unresolved trauma reignited when an Australian rugby star was briefly suspended for a hateful social media post claiming that “hell awaits” members of the LGBTQ+ community. When that player was allowed to rejoin the league, protesters greeted his homecoming with a sea of rainbow flags. The sight was enough to galvanize Eammon’s resolve to make a movie about queer confidence and its place in the sporting world.
Eammon found further support and inspiration when he joined the Kings Cross Steelers, a beefy gaggle of gay rugby gods who lend their name and humanity to the new documentary. One of the most outspoken, outgoing, and just plain OUT members of the team was Drew McDowell, aka Drewalicious. McDowell is a fierce player on the field, and an even fiercer drag queen performer after dark.
Steelers immortalizes this merry band of rambunctious champs, and the triumphant narrative is about to make its official premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival.
The debut is a dream come true for its creator, Eammon Ashton-Atkinson. He has evolved light years from the scared, bullied kid who once left the pitch behind due to harassment over his sexuality. “It’s funny, isn’t it?” muses Eammon. “Something that was such a negative in my life, I’ve been able to turn into this wonderful positive thing with this film.”
With a warm nod to his teammates, Eammon concludes, “I felt like I finally found a place where people liked me for who I was.”
And that place is firmly in the spotlight. We applaud you, Eammon, and we predict that scores of sports and movie fans are about to join us upon the success of Steelers.
Last modified: January 27, 2021