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SportsAugust 2, 2022

Heath Davis, the first gay Black Cap

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Former Black Cap and cult hero Heath Davis is New Zealand’s first international cricketer to speak openly about his sexuality.

This is a short feature on Heath Davis. Read the full profile here.

A cult cricketing hero who played for Wellington and New Zealand in the 90s has become this country’s first international male cricketer to speak publicly about his experience as a gay professional athlete. Heath Davis was selected for the Black Caps in 1994 at just 22 and as one of the fiercest pace bowlers in the world. He had the talent and charisma to be a superstar. But behind the scenes was a life hidden. During the days on tour, Davis opened the bowling with blistering pace. At night he went looking for sex in places where nobody would know him.

Playing for his home side in Wellington, Davis kept his two lives separate. Moving away from the city – and eventually the country – was the only way he could live openly as himself.

Out of the public eye since his retirement from first class cricket in 2004, Davis appeared in the season finale of The Spinoff’s documentary series Scratched: Aotearoa’s Lost Sporting Legends, where he shared the truth behind his career, his infamous antics and the lonely life of the first gay Black Cap.

To many, Davis will be most known for his bleached blonde hair, gold chain and often frustratingly inconsistent bowling. The most-viewed video of Davis on YouTube is titled “worst first ball in test cricket history” and shows his first ever international cricket delivery – a leg side wide for four. That inconsistency paired with a knack for doing things no other athletes would dare do (he played more than one match for Wellington while on acid) set Davis apart from his teammates.

Heath Davis: Terrifyingly fast (Photos: Supplied)

But he set himself apart in other ways too. While on tour with the Black Caps, Davis kept mostly to himself. His teammates would socialise together and meet women while out celebrating a win, and Davis would quietly excuse himself to head to a different part of town. “It was lonely,” he said. “There’s a lot of going to saunas and seedy places to get sex because you didn’t want to be seen and that sort of stuff.”

In speaking publicly, even 28 years after debuting for the Black Caps, Davis is one of few New Zealand male athlete to openly discuss their sexuality, and certainly the most high profile. Irish rugby player Nick McCarthy was celebrated in June for publicly coming out as gay. Then last week, the Manly Sea Eagles made headlines after seven players refused to wear a team uniform with rainbow piping in support of the LGBTQIA+ community. Until now, there have been no (openly) gay All Blacks or Black Caps and very few queer male athletes known to the New Zealand public, though queerness has been part of women’s sport for decades. Most recently, married cricketers Amy Satterthwaite and Leah Tahuhu played in the White Ferns together.

Davis never felt unsafe within his sport but he never felt truly comfortable either. “I was a bit afraid of just being out in Wellington. Being able to take my partner to the game,” he said, speaking of his time with the Wellington Firebirds.

In 1997 he moved to Auckland where “everyone in the team knew I was gay” and then in 2004, moved to Australia where he’s lived since, working various labour jobs. In speaking out now, Davis doesn’t consider himself to be a role model as much as someone who simply wanted to live as freely as everyone else. “I just wanted a normal life. There was a part of me that needed to break free and I wanted a partner to love. That was really all.”

Where to find support

OutLine NZ  – Freephone 0800 OUTLINE (0800 688 5463)

Rainbow Youth – Phone (09)3764155

InsideOUT – Phone 027 331 4507

 

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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