Test cricketer Heath Davis bravely comes out as gay aged 50 after ‘repressing it’ for decades

Former New Zealand cricketer Heath Davis wears a dark blue shirt with grey sleeves as he sits down for an interview

Former New Zealand cricketer Heath Davis has come out as gay and revealed the loneliness he faced “repressing” his sexuality for years.

Davis played five Tests – a format of cricket with the longest match duration and arguably the game’s most prestigious standard – and 11 One Day Internationals for the Black Caps in the 1990s. 

Nearly three decades after his Test debut, Davis, now 50, has publicly discussed his sexuality for the first time, in an episode of the documentary series Scratched: Aotearoa’s Lost Sporting Legends. He is New Zealand’s first male international cricketer to publicly come out as gay.

The bowler said he felt there was a “part of [his] life that [he] was hiding”, and was first able to explore that aspect of his identity when he travelled to England. 

“I think the first tour to England I was starting to discover myself and went to a few bars and things privately just to see what life was,” he recalled. “Well you’re on the other side of the world, no one’s going to know you.”

Davis said he “left that part of [his] life there [in England]” when he returned home as there was a lot of “keeping your private life separate” from cricket work. 

“It was lonely,” he said. “You know, going to saunas and seedy places to get sex because you didn’t want to be seen.”

Davis continued: “I was repressing it. I wasn’t leading a gay life. I wasn’t out in Wellington.”

Heath Davis wears a white cricket uniform as he throws (or bowls) a cricket ball

Heath Davis described being “lonely” as he was “repressing” his sexuality while playing high-profile cricket in New Zealand. (Graham Chadwick/Allsport)

Heath Davis had “some systems and people in place” where he could openly talk about his sexuality, but he didn’t “feel comfortable” coming out publicly while playing cricket. 

Davis admitted he was a “bit afraid of being out” while playing and living in Wellington. He feared bringing a boyfriend to a game and acknowledged the “two [cricket and a male partner] wouldn’t have existed [together]” with the way he was “thinking at that time”. 

“I was either going to put one on hold and live one,” he said. “I felt there was this part of my life I needed to express now. I was sick of hiding it.”

He described how “all the stars aligned” and his life improved in 1997 after he moved from Wellington to play domestic cricket in Auckland. 

Davis shared how everyone on the Auckland team knew he was gay, and he felt like it “didn’t seem to be that big of an issue”.

“I just felt free,” he added. 

Former New Zealand cricketer Heath Davis wears a dark blue shirt with grey sleeves as he sits down for an interview

Heath Davis “felt free” when he was able to live as his authentic self and play cricket for Auckland. (YouTube/The Spinoff)

Former Wellington Firebirds player Stephen Mather, who was also part of the documentary, said Heath Davis told him about his sexuality in 1997. He said there were no other out gay men playing first-class cricket at the time, and he said there were some “pretty old-school attitudes” in cricket back then.

“There were 80 or 90 men – so that doesn’t make a huge amount of sense on a probability scale,” Mather explained. “There was some pretty free-thinking people in the cricket circles at that time, but there were also some pretty old-school attitudes as well.”

Former England wicket-keeper Steven Davies became the first male international cricketer to publicly come out as gay in 2011. Davies said, at the time, it was a “massive relief” to be able to talk openly about his sexuality and hoped to inspire others.

“I’m comfortable with who I am – and happy to say who I am in public,” Davies said. “To speak out is a massive relief for me, but if I can just help one person to deal with their sexuality then that’s all I care about.”