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"Look, it's one of two things," said Johnno. "Do you want me to make it easier on you, Alf? Do you want me to say it for you?"
Alf nodded. "Either you cheated on her with another woman, which I don't think you have...."
"Does it have something to do with your sexuality, mate?"
Tears filled Alf's eyes. "You knew all the time," he said.
"So ... you're still Alf, right? We love you. This doesn't change anything about you as a person or how the boys feel about you.... But you'll need support, mate. You can't hold this alone. I'm going to speak to a few of the boys. They need to know."
Alf shuddered, hung his head and nodded, then went to a bar in the team hotel and waited in terror for two hours. Johnno checked into a room there, invited in two of the most senior and respected members of the team, Martyn Williams and Stephen Jones, opened a bottle of red and poured out the truth.
The two players finally entered the bar. Williams put a hand on Alf's back. "Hey, mate," he said, "no big deal. We don't care. Cheers for getting it out. Why didn't you tell us before?"
Free at last? No. For the next three years Alf lived in a halfway house. He made tearful confessions to close friends and family, who all embraced him. But he wasn't sure which of his teammates knew he was gay—either on the national team or on Cardiff, which signed him after he fled Toulouse with no warning to teammates or coaches—and he couldn't risk widening the circle. Most found out, but they didn't know if he knew that they knew, so everyone had to keep the elephant caged, unsettling them all.
The Internet hummed with speculation, and both his teams got phone calls from tabloids on the verge of outing him. But he just kept holding his breath and no-commenting, and his teammates loved him too much to forsake him. So few precedents existed to embolden him. A rugby player on the other side of the world, Ian Roberts, had come out in 1995 while he was still playing, and he heard plenty of slurs from crowds and opponents but had been awarded the Australian Sports Medal five years later for his contributions to their game. An English soccer player, Justin Fashanu, had stepped forward in 1990, but his brother had disowned him and crowds had been vicious.