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Top Australian rugby referee Matt Cecchin comes out as gay

Matt Cecchin, a top referee in Australia's National Rugby League, has publicly come out, inspired by reading a book by former Aussie rugby star Ian Roberts.

"Like a lot of people, I thought to be gay you had to be feminine, you had to go to nightclubs and you had to be in the scene and I was never into that," said Cecchin, who has refereed 116 NRL games and four Test matches.

"I played sport, I loved rugby league, I liked going to the pub with my mates. It wasn't until I read Ian's book that I started to tick a few boxes. In the early days when people found out, I would tell my mates to ask me every question they wanted answered.

"And there were some good ones, especially after a couple of schooners.

Cecchin referred last year's Grand Final, the NRL's equivalent of the Super Bowl, so this is a big deal. He was engaged to be married 13 years ago and says his teenage son has been totally accepting of his sexual orientation. He said he has never heard any gay slurs while working a match.

"I can honestly say I've never ever heard or been called anything to do with being gay on the field," Cecchin said. "I haven't been treated any differently. I haven't been treated as a token and I haven't been discriminated against. ...

"But me coming out has ... to do with the youth that are growing up today that may be going through a whole world of hurt and fear. My experience is they don't need to be. People are OK with it now."

Good for Cecchin and it's fantastic to have an out person at the highest reaches of a sport.