Cronulla forward reaffirms commitment to gay community with ‘love is love’ celebration in dramatic final loss to Cowboys
- The Cronulla Sharks were beaten 32-30 in their qualifying final on Saturday
- Prop Toby Rudolf returned from a knee injury to score the Sharks’ first try
- He celebrated by making a heart symbol with his hands to represent “love is love”
- Rudolf has openly supported the LGBTQIA+ community this season
The Cronulla Sharks may have suffered heartbreak in their 32-30 NRL qualifying final loss to the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday, but prop Toby Rudolf still has plenty of love to spare.
The Sharks forward famously responded to the Manly Sea Eagles pride shirt fiasco this season, admitting he had kissed men, had a gay uncle who was a father figure and stood up for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Prior to his comments, former Souths, Manly and North Queensland hardball player Ian Roberts was the only first-class rugby league player in history to admit to being LGBTQIA+.
Rudolph had missed the final month of the NRL regular season with an MCL injury in his knee but was back to his best with 12 carries for 143 meters and 32 tackles.
The prop also opened the scoring for the Sharks, isolating Cowboys smaller back Scott Drinkwater in the defensive line and beating a tackle from Tonga captain Jason Taumalolo to charge over the line.
He celebrated in high fashion with his teammates before returning to his position on the defensive line, forming his hands into a heart symbol that appears to represent “love is love” for the trailing camera.
Rudolph makes heart shape to represent “love is love” after scoring against Cowboys
Cronulla’s Rudolph surfs and celebrates his try against the North Queensland Cowboys
It comes after his interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in July, where he first shared the ‘love is love’ message in response to the seven players who left the Manly side over the Pride jersey.
“I was raised by several members of the gay and lesbian community. My uncle is gay and my godmother is gay, and there is so much love in this community.’
“Sexuality is very fluid. I’ve come out and kissed a lot of gay men, I’ve kissed a lot of straight women, and I’ve kissed a lot of gay people,” he said.
“I am not single-minded. Love is love and I love to share it with everyone.
“That’s probably why I like going to all the gay bars in Sydney – I like to dance in my shirt off and go down Universal on Oxford St until 2am.”
Rudolph has become an advocate for a pioneering round of pride in the NRL. He also backed up his comments in a wide-ranging interview with Fox Sports in August.
“I wanted to support the community that has been there my whole life,” he said.
Rudolph posted this image with the caption: “Double the island, double the fun #friendship #takeabreathboys”
“And I’m also not too fussy to talk about anything about myself. I’m not afraid of anything really, letting people know about the things I do.
“The main thing is that the LGBTQI+ community was dragged through the mud a little bit that week and I just wanted to give them a little push.”
Since his comments, Rudolph’s Instagram profile has received a handful of negative posts and a slew of homophobic slurs, but many more messages of positivity.
“You do and spread your sun! You make me love the NRL more, sexy Hercules free spirit,” one fan posted.
Thank you for your courage and honesty and good vibes!!! I’m not an NRL fan but I’m a fan of yours, maybe now I’ll just be a Sharks fan,” posted another.
An image posted on Rudolph’s Instagram where he comments that he misses his boys. One of the replies reads: “Thank you for promoting and openly supporting free love to all. Hero’.
Rudolph told Fox Sports that “99 percent” of the reception to his comments has been positive.
“You’re always going to get some negative comments, but 99 percent of people applauded me, my bravery and other things that I didn’t think were so brave, I just thought I was just talking about my stuff. ‘ he said.
“I went to Northie’s that night after we won that game with golden points and everyone there was also very nice, very supportive, saying they liked what I was saying.
The Sharks will have a chance to redeem themselves in the NRL when they take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs in an elimination final at Allianz Stadium this weekend.