Pink Hair on a Dallas Rugger Raises Eyebrows, Awareness, Money
By Pat Clifton
When Dallas lost 64-17 to the Glendale Raptors Saturday, it not only knocked the Reds out of the DI playoffs, but it took the pink hair of Dallas fullback Matt Rawle out of the limelight. RUGBYMag.com’s here to put it back in.
Rawle, an Aussie, played Aussie rules football back home before coming to the States, and one game a few years ago, his club donned pink jerseys to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research. Rawle, whose sister had recently been diagnosed with the disease, took it one step further.
“Our uniforms were pink, so I decided to dye my hair,” said Rawle. “It all happened pretty much in the same week she got diagnosed with breast cancer.”
What started as an enthusiastic and spirited gesture and turned into a good-natured bet between Rawle and some teammates has now become a constant reminder of what many women live with or in fear of on a daily basis.
“I dyed my hair pink for the match. I went out that night and got plenty of support, and the next day woke up and my mate said if I’m willing to keep it for a year, because no one thought I would, they’d donate money to breast cancer. Always up for a challenge, I took him up on it, and three years later and quite a few thousand dollars later, the hair’s still pink.
“It was kind of a bet, like if you keep your head pink for a year, we’ll give you a couple hundred dollars each, and it all added up. I ended up cashing a few thousand the first year, and it just kind of keeps going along.”
Rawle doesn’t have an exact count on how much money has been donated to breast cancer research as a direct result of his hair, but says his fluorescent locks raise a good bit of awareness everywhere he goes, as well as inspire some spontaneous generosity. “Obviously I don’t tell everyone I meet what it’s for, and someone will ask me and I’ll tell them,” said Rawle.
“People will actually want to pledge money when they meet me at a bar, like give me $20 or $50. If anyone meets me out I have to say no to the donations, because it’s not going to find its way to the charity, it’s going to be put in some bar’s cash register.”
(When people offer Rawle cash donations or inquire about how to get involved, he advises them to get online and look at the various outlets through which to do so.)
Rawle says the reaction he gets on the rugby pitch from his hair isn’t as bad in the States as it was down under. “In the U.S., the sledging isn’t as bad as it is back home in Australia,” he said. “When you play rugby in the U.S., if you tackle someone hard, the bloke will get up and say good tackle. There’s no animosity between the players, but back home in Australia, I got plenty of grief about it.”
Luckily for Rawle, he’s managed to escape serious hair-related grief in his personal life. “When I met my girlfriend, I was wearing a blonde wig dressed as a famous Australian rules footballer,” said Rawle. “She didn’t know my hair was pink until the second or third time I met her, because I was wearing a hat the next couple of times. Then I decided to unveil the prize, and she’s fine with it. I don’t think she knows me any other way, either. Her parents, they raise an eyebrow or two.”
Breast cancer is a disease that’s touched the lives of many, if not most, in one way or another, and spreading awareness and banking a little bit of cash for the cause is something Rawle is passionate about, because he too has personally witnessed the pain it can cause.
“Three or four of my friend’s moms have passed away because of breast cancer,” he said, “and my good mate’s wife got diagnosed last year, so it’s close to my heart, that whole issue.”
Rawle guarantees his hair will stay pink for the foreseeable future. And as for his sister, the woman who inspired the change in hair color, things are looking good. “She’s fully recovered. She’s fine now, which is good,” said Rawle. “They got it very early. It never really turned into a big issue. She didn’t have to go through that much treatment. They detected it super early and as far as I know, three years on, everything’s good.”