Liverpool Tritons RUFC became the first inclusive rugby union team in Merseyside in 2016, creating a welcoming home for those in the LGBT community. 

The current chairperson of the club, Mike Turner, has been there from the start and has been a key figure in the running of the club since.

Mike didn’t play any sports growing up and was completely new to rugby when he joined the club in 2016.

He opened up about why he thinks Liverpool Tritons RUFC are the only inclusive rugby side in Merseyside and if there will always be a need for inclusive clubs.

He said: “I think because we are quite new, I’m not sure how many more people would play if there was another one on Merseyside.

“We’ve got Sheffield pretty close, Preston and Manchester, so we’ve got all these teams really close by.

“I think rugby is quite a good sport as far as inclusion goes and I think the world is changing for the better.

“Eventually, maybe there won’t be any need for us to exist in terms of getting new people into rugby but in terms of providing the social space and the network.

“So even if our aim to get gay people into rugby doesn’t have to be there anymore, I think we will still want to play the other LGBT focused clubs from around the country.

“If anything, the parties are really good so it’s worth it from that perspective!”

As well as being a hub for the LGBT community, Tritons attract straight people who are new to the sport and want to give it a go.

Mike makes the point there are not many rugby clubs that give opportunities to people wanting to pick up the sport for the first time.

He said: “We are actually one of the few places where you get new adults joining the sport who haven’t played before so we’re actually a big growth area.

“Because a lot of mainstream clubs aren’t set up for new starters arriving on mass.

“So that’s why I think we have quite a few who wouldn’t identify as LGBT who come along, and it’s the place where they learn how to play.”

As well as being trailblazers in Merseyside, Tritons were one of the first inclusive clubs in the north.

Since they formed in 2016, Leeds, Sheffield, and Huddersfield are just some clubs that have followed in Liverpool Tritons footsteps.

Tritons beginnings

John Deptford initially founded Liverpool Tritons in 2016 and was the club chairperson until he moved to Australia for work in 2018.

He had previously played for Manchester Spartans who were the first openly gay club in the north.

John came up with the idea of forming Liverpool Tritons while competing in the 2016 Bingham Cup in Nashville (the world championship of gay and inclusive rugby).

On his return to Liverpool, he set up a marketing campaign to try to convince local people to join Liverpool Tritons.

John said: “We had a mixed response.

“We had people who said they ‘had never played rugby before, had never played a team sport before or I used to play at school, but I was bullied’.

“We discussed how to break down those barriers and we had an open session where we told them what our plans were and what atmosphere and culture we wanted to create.”

John said there was a great response to the open session as the club looked to replicate the success of local rivals Manchester Spartans.

As well as creating a safe space for members of the LGBT community to play team sports, Deptford believes the club has been an important place for people’s mental health.

He said: “We’ve had people who were very depressed, isolated and just needed a friendship group around them.

“Bringing people into rugby for sport ticks two boxes, helping people through difficult times and get people into a social group, it helps the wellbeing of the mental and physical side.

“We’re a very diverse group, not every member of the team is gay, people are from all different backgrounds, come for all different reasons and we give people a common ground.”

“The support network I have through the Tritons helped with that”- Mikey Rowlands on coping with autism

Mikey Rowlands is the club’s secretary, as well as a key member of the playing team. He joined the Tritons in January 2019 after 10 years with the Kings Cross Steelers in London.

Mikey said he intends to retire from playing in the next few years and is setting his sights on a future in coaching and the possible takeover as the club chairman.

He said: “I do enjoy playing, it’s great but I’m getting on a bit now so it’s a case of it will only be a few more years [of playing]. I’m also going to look into doing some coaching as well and also going for the chairman position if it becomes available.”

Having travelled the world competing in both the Union Cup and the Bingham Cup, Mikey’s aim now is to get new faces to join the club.

“For me now it’s more of a case of getting more people into playing rugby and to have these experiences that I’ve had.”

Mikey also spoke about how much of a positive impact playing and being involved with the club has had on his mental health, particularly since being diagnosed with autism.

He said: “I got diagnosed with autism last year during lockdown which was a little bit stressful.

“Because you sort of go through this cycle of ‘oh finally I’ve got some answers’ and then you start reflecting on things that have happened in the past and how you approach things. You’re kind of second-guessing yourself in a way.

“Definitely the support network I have through the Tritons has really helped with that. I wouldn’t have actually seen myself taking on a chairman role, I wouldn’t have considered that a while ago.

“Whereas the idea I’m going for it now has definitely been a boost for the confidence that’s for sure.

“The support network really helped me through after the diagnosis. It’s quite tremendous the comradery you have in these sort of teams.

“It does have a major impact [on your mental health] and it’s not just the exercise element of it, it’s that support network.

“It’s something I want when people come to the club to see and to realise and to make an impact on their lives as well.”

Where is home for the Tritons?

The Triton’s home ground is shared with Liverpool’s Merseyside Police at the force’s Sports and Social Club.

They also train every Wednesday at Leisure United’s Astro Turf in Liverpool, a facility that Turner doesn’t take for granted.

He said: “Training is going really well, it’s RFU-approved and we’re really thankful to have this facility here because it does mean we always have somewhere to train.

“It’s very rare that the conditions are so bad that we can’t use this.”

Liverpool Tritons are currently appealing for new members, and anyone interested in joining will get four weeks free before having to buy a membership for £15 a month or £7.50 for students.