'Death felt preferable': Former Wallaby opens up on hiding sexuality

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Dan Palmer, pictured here during a training session for the Wallabies in 2012.
Dan Palmer looks on during a training session for the Wallabies in 2012. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Former Wallabies player Dan Palmer has revealed the harrowing toll of hiding his sexuality during his career, taking a shot at Israel Folau in the process.

In a revealing column for the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday, Palmer said his “death felt preferable to anybody discovering I was gay.”

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The 32-year-old, who played for the Waratahs and Brumbies and made one appearance for the Wallabies, said he was speaking out “on the off chance it will help someone who finds themselves in a similar position.”

Palmer said despite becoming vice-captain of the Brumbies in 2012 and making his debut for the Wallabies, he “fantasised about disappearing, changing my name and starting my life all over again.”

“It is not an exaggeration to say my own death felt preferable to anybody discovering I was gay,” he added.

“After overdosing on painkillers and waking up in a pool of the previous day’s food, it was clear to me that I was rapidly self-destructing and that something had to change.”

Palmer said opening up about his sexuality to a friend “removed a weight I had been carrying for as long as I could remember.”

Dan Palmer takes shot at Israel Folau

The former prop also opened up about the Folau scandal, which saw the former Wallabies star sacked by the code for homophobic comments he made on social media.

“To me, what is more important than the damage he has caused rugby is the deep impact he has undoubtedly had on kids who looked up to him, and who struggle every day with understanding their sexuality,” Palmer said.

“He will never see the impact he has had on these young people, but if he could, I doubt he could live with himself. Thankfully, from my experience in rugby, views like Israel’s are the exception, not the rule.

“It was encouraging to hear a chorus of prominent voices from rugby players and officials globally that condemned his position and continue to push for a more accepting and inclusive sporting landscape.”

Dan Palmer, pictured here in action for the Wallabies against Scotland in 2012.
Dan Palmer in action for the Wallabies against Scotland in 2012. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Palmer is only part of a small group of former or current rugby players to come out as gay.

And despite making tremendous strides in recent years, he believes “we’re on the right track, but we are not quite there yet.”

Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia for his anti-gay religious post on social media, before eventually receiving a payout after a prolonged legal battle.

He has since moved to France to play rugby league for Catalans Dragons in the UK Super League.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

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