NRL news 2022: Manly Sea Eagles pride jersey, more players join boycott, Des Hasler


Manly Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler has apologised for the club’s “significant mistake” regarding the controversial pride jersey, confirming the team would still wear the rainbow-coloured kit on Thursday.

But the drama is not over as The Daily Telegraph reported the Sea Eagles were battling to name a team as a “handful of would-be first timers knocked back a chance to play the game” because of similar reasons to the seven players who have stood down over the jersey.

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However, the report has revealed the grandson of rugby league immortal Bob Fulton, Zac Fulton, is expected to make his debut.

James Segeyaro is also expected to return to the top grade for the first time since 2019 when he was banned after testing positive to a banned substance.

The 31-year-old has played 154 games after stints with North Queensland, Penrith, Cronulla and Brisbane.

It comes after seven players sensationally stood themselves down after the club announced the pride jersey – featuring rainbow stripes and trim – would be worn as a one-off for their NRL match against the Sydney Roosters.

Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley were reportedly opposed to wearing the jersey due to religious beliefs.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Hasler confirmed those seven players would not play in Thursday’s game at 4 Pines Park in Brookvale, where the Sea Eagles will become the first NRL club to wear an LGBTQIA jersey.

“We are here today to apologise for a significant mistake made by the Manly Sea Eagles football club,” he said.

“The jersey’s intent was to support the advocacy and human rights pertaining to gender, race, culture, ability and LGBTQ movements.

“Sadly, the execution of what was intended to be an extremely important initiative was poor. There was little consultation or collaboration between key stakeholders, both inside and outside the club.

“Our intent was to be caring and compassionate towards all diverse groups who face inclusion issues daily. However, instead of enhancing tolerance and acceptance, we may have hindered this. This was the opposite of our intent.

“This poor mismanagement has caused significant confusion, discomfort and pain for many people.

“We wish to apologise to the LGBTQ community who embrace the rainbow colour for pride and advocacy and human rights issues. We accept your cultural beliefs and hope that you can accept our apology.

“We wish to apologise to the Australian Rugby League Commission, the NRL and the other 15 NRL clubs for creating negative news, shifting the spotlight from the launch of the Women in League round.

“We wish to apologise to our own playing group and staff for any confusion, discomfort and pain that the mistake we have made may have caused them.

“There are always going to be subsets of society who have cultural and religious views, and they must always be considered.

“None of the coaching staff nor the players had prior knowledge of the jersey. They are not wearing the jersey as it conflicts with their cultural and religious beliefs, and I am concerned for their welfare. Their spirituality is a central part of their well being. The club has made an error from which it will learn.

“The (seven) players will not play on Thursday, and we accept their decision. These young men are strong in their beliefs and convictions, and we will give them the space and the support they require.

“Whilst we have come a long way as a society, there‘s still no doubt much work to be done, particularly in education.

“For any person struggling with identity, we acknowledge the challenges and difficulties. My heart goes out to you and your families, and if the club can personally do anything to assist, we will. We are here, we offer our complete support.

“I apologise to anyone to whom this matter has caused distress.”

Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans asserted that the playing group was united despite the off-field drama.

“The situation we’re in now, unfortunately we’re not going to make everyone happy,” he said.

“Like a lot of things in life, we can’t make everyone happy so I tried to make it really clear as a person you have the right to your own actions and with those actions come consequences and repercussions and we just have to make sure if any of these things get too out of hand that we’re there to support our teammates for their decisions.

“Sometimes the hardest situation in sport is to try and deal with situations that are sometimes out of your control but one thing they can control as a playing group is accepting the decision some players have made in trying to find a silver lining in all of this.

“There are going to be 17 players out there celebrating inclusiveness and diversity, so I think hopefully we can start to shift our attention towards the good intentions that were had.”

Warriors prop Addin Fonua-Blake, who previously represented Manly for five years, said he respected the players’ choice to boycott the Round 20 contest.

“Each to their own I guess,” he said.

“I know there‘s a lot of cultural and religious (reasons) that go into their decision. I’ve got nothing but respect for the boys.

“The NRL is very diverse. There‘s a lot of different religions and each to their own, they have their own beliefs. Whatever they want to do, follow their beliefs, then total respect to them, and the boys who do go and wear the jersey I’m sure they’re going to do a good job for Manly as well.”

Earlier on Tuesday, ARLC chairman Peter V’landys argued the Manly footballers were completely within their rights not to play.

“The game prides itself on treating everyone as a human being, no matter what their race, colour or sexual orientation,” he told 2GB.

“We’re all human beings at the end of the day.

“Rugby league is the greatest game for all. It’s inclusive.

“But at the same time you have to respect people’s religious beliefs and cultural beliefs. Those players are taking a stand and they’ve got every right to – they’ve got freedoms to do so.

“It should have been done collaboratively. I’m the first person that doesn’t want sport to be politicised because we go to sport to escape the day-to-day problems. So we don’t want to have politics involved. But this isn’t politics – recognising and respecting fellow human beings and being inclusive – I do not believe is political.

“We respect everyone. It doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is, what your belief in marriage is, what your race is, what your colour is, we respect you as a human being. The game’s policy has been that for many years and it won’t change.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was asked whether he had a message for the country’s religious communities in the aftermath of the Manly saga.

“That I respect people of faith,” he said.

“That all people, regardless of their faith, should be respected. That’s something I have always done. And something that my government will do as well.

“We will address the issues of religious discrimination and the need to legislate there. We’ll do that during the term of Parliament.

“We’ll do it in a way which is much more consultative and brings people together in a way that I hope characterises the way my government functions.”

Meanwhile, the club’s historic jersey celebrating inclusivity sold out in the men’s section online within hours of the seven stars officially standing down.

Originally published as More players join original seven members in boycott over club’s pride jersey

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