Rowing: Robbie Manson welcomes outrage at Folau anti-gay rants

While Wallabies star Israel Folau may have sparked public outrage with his anti-gay messages, top New Zealand rower Robbie Manson believe they've done more good than harm.

"In a way, [Folau] has almost done the LGBT community a favour," says the national single sculls champion.

Manson, 28, who came out as a gay athlete six year ago, usually does his talking on the water. Last year, he set a world best time over 2000m of 6m 30.74s, three seconds faster than two-time Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale.

But now he's doing plenty of talking off it as well. Manson is backing the Waterboy charity that helps kids facing tough times get the opportunity to play sport.

"One of the key barriers that the Waterboy is targeting to break down is homophobia in sports," says Manson.

"That's something quite close to me, being an openly gay athlete, and at one point in time, I perceived that to be a barrier myself."    

He's encouraged by the Folau debate and especially how other NZ sports stars have stood up against Folau's homophobic messages.

Super Rugby players TJ Perenara and Brad Weber have backed up Manson's message that being gay is OK.

"To have straight allies out there sharing that message is starting to show that it's not really an issue, because now there's so much support that's really visible and obvious."

Olympic champion Eric Murray is returning to the boat to throw his support behind the Waterboy mission.

"It’s only 500 metres so I'm sure that my limited amount of fitness will be fine for that length of a race," Murray said. 

"You’ll have six people who probably have very limited rowing experience so no matter what you’re doing as an athlete or ex athlete it won't matter too much so long as you can mould the crew together really well."

Mason was looking forward to the event as he is raising money funds for a cause close to his heart.

"It's going to be about working together in a short space of time, trying to bring people together who have never rowed before and get them going as fast as you can in a short space of time," Manson said. 

"It’s about the fun of it as well. It's not just about winning . It’s about competing, it’s about participating and being out there doing something with a group of people and having a good time.

"Rowing is a really strength-based sport. You don't want to be perceived as being not as strong because of your sexuality.

"But I think those stereotypes and barriers are really being broken down now."

Overcoming these barriers is why Manson is achieving at the top level.