Ian Roberts is an Australian actor, gay rights activist and former professional rugby league footballer of the 1980s and 1990s. A New South Wales State of Origin and Australian international representative, he played club football with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Wigan Warriors, Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles and North Queensland Cowboys.
In 1995 Roberts, at the height of his career, became the first high-profile Australian sports person and first rugby footballer in the world to come out to the public as gay. He is perceived as an outstanding role model within the gay community for his courage, strength and continued objection to homophobia in sports.
In 2000, Roberts was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his contribution to Australia's international standing in rugby league. In 2005, he was named one of the 25 greatest ever New South Wales players.
In March 2014, Roberts revealed that he has brain damage after being knocked out up to a dozen times in his playing career.
I first met Ian way back in 1992 before he came out as a gay man. I remember talking to him about coming out and the ramifications to his life in the intensely “macho” arena of Rugby League sports.
I have wanted to paint Ians portrait for a long time and it finally happened this year. Apart from being a hero within the gay community for challenging stereotypes he is also a thoughtful, considerate and a bit of a gentle giant.
For the sitting he had just found out that he had suffered brain damage during his sporting career.
details:Materials: Oil on linen
Dimensions (cm): 220 x 200