Manly coach Des Hasler has confirmed all seven players will miss this week’s NRL match against the Sydney Roosters over the club’s pride jersey furore.
Seven players sensationally stood down after the club announced the pride jersey – featuring rainbow stripes and trim – would be worn as a one-off this week.
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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 their religious beliefs.
Despite reports three players were wavering on their stance, Hasler confirmed in a press conference today the seven players would miss this week’s match.
“None of the coaching staff or the players had prior knowledge to the jersey,” Hasler said.
“They are not wearing the jersey as it conflicts with their cultural and religious beliefs. And I am concerned with their welfare.
“Their spirituality is a central part of their wellbeing. The club has made an error from which it and we will learn. The 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 then the space and the support they require.
“The playing group are solid and understanding of each other’s views. As a club, we will wear the jersey on Thursday night.”
It comes after Hasler admitted to a “significant mistake” on behalf of the club.
Manly held an emergency meeting with the players in question on Monday evening, and 7News reported three players had been considering wearing the pride jersey this week.
Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler reportedly told his players he would support their decision to stand down from the Round 20 contest over the pride jersey, while ARLC chairman Peter V’landys argued the footballers were completely within their rights not to play.
“Rugby league is the greatest game for all,” he told 2GB.
“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.”
Manly will become the first club in rugby league history to wear a jersey celebrating inclusivity, with rainbow colours replacing the traditional white piping.
Sea Eagles great Ian Roberts, the first rugby league player to come out as openly gay, was left heartbroken by the player revolt.
“I try to see it from all perspectives but this breaks my heart,” Roberts said to The Daily Telegraph.
“It’s sad and uncomfortable. As an older gay man, this isn’t unfamiliar. I did wonder whether there would be any religious pushback. That’s why I think the NRL have never had a Pride round.
“I can promise you every young kid on the northern beaches who is dealing with their sexuality would have heard about this.”
Rugby league journalist Paul Kent, however, offered a differing view and put the onus squarely back on the club for trying to inject its own political views on the playing group.
“The players, according to my understanding, not all of them but many of them only became aware they were wearing these jerseys when they read about it in the newspaper,” Kent told Fox League’s NRL 360 on Monday evening.
“Because of their own cultural and religious beliefs some of them have an issue with it.
“The Manly club did this without any consultation of the players, they did it without board approval. It’s basically a marketing decision and they’ve just assumed everything was ok.
“The club has imposed its own politics on these players and these players have inadvertently been embroiled in this scandal and they will be, hopefully, protected. But they will be under pressure now through no fault of their own.
“It’s an embarrassing look for the club and it’s a difficult one. This talk about inclusion, wearing the Manly jersey for me is inclusion.
“To inflict their own political views on the players who may not share that and are now being forced to deal with the consequences of that is a real oversight by the club and it’s something they should be embarrassed about.”
Manly’s historic jersey celebrating inclusivity sold out in the men’s section online within hours of the seven stars officially standing down.
On Tuesday morning, 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.”
Manly will address the media later today before announcing their team at 4pm AEST.
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