Independent MP Zali Steggall has lashed out at the seven ‘hypocritical’ Manly Sea Eagles pride jersey boycott players who happily wear playing strips in the NRL adorned with gambling and alcohol sponsors during the season.
‘I do feel personally that their position is fairly hypocritical, given they take a stance on inclusion yet have no issue with gambling or alcohol (signage) on their jerseys,’ she said on Thursday.
‘I feel this is not about religion, I think this is a sort of macho masculinity that needs to be addressed within rugby league.’
Jason Saab, Josh Aloiai, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley all withdrew from Manly’s Thursday night clash against the Sydney Roosters saying the jersey with rainbow stripes doesn’t align with their religious and cultural beliefs.
Manly star Kieran Foran models the rainbow pride jersey which has seen seven of his teammates boycott Thursday’s match versus the Roosters as it doesn’t align with their cultural and religious beliefs
It set off a chaotic chain of events, with coach Des Hasler delivering a moving apology to the media on Tuesday.
Hasler acknowledged the situation was a farce, and that the playing group should have been consulted prior to the club launching their historic rainbow jersey during Women In League Round.
No other NRL team stretching back to 1908 has launched a pride jersey.
‘They (seven players) are not wearing the jersey as it conflicts with their cultural and religious beliefs,’ Hasler said.
‘And I am concerned for their (mental) welfare. Their spirituality is a central part of their well-being. The club has made an error from which it will learn.’
Hasler went onto ‘sincerely apologise’ to community minority groups, the 15 other NRL clubs, the LGBTQ community as a whole and the Australian Rugby League Commission in what quickly descended into a fiasco.
‘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,’ he added.
Manly prop Josh Aloiai is one of the seven Manly stars who will not be playing on Thursday night due to the pride jersey being worn
Young gun Josh Schuster also chose to boycott Thursday’s match as he was not comfortable wearing a pride jersey
‘Sadly, this poor mismanagement has caused significant confusion, discomfort and pain for many people.
‘We have even adversely affected our playing group, a wonderful group of people comprising of many different races and cultural backgrounds.’
With seven Sea Eagles players not making themselves available for selection, Hasler was forced to make wholesale team changes for the crucial round 20 clash.
Fijian international Pio Seci will play on one wing, while journeyman Alfred Smalley has been elevated from the Blacktown Workers NSW Cup team and will make his NRL debut.
Ethan Bullemor returns to first grade, with Kurt De Luis poised to start in the front row.
Coach Des Hasler (pictured) and Sea Eagles general manager of football John Bonasera contacted the seven players on Wednesday to tell them to stay home on Thursday based on the advice of NSW Police
Manly’s supporters are tipped to be out in force to support their new look team on Thursday at 4 Pines Park
James Segeyaro is set for a return to NRL action for the first time since 2019, named on the bench alongside Keppie, Martin Taupau and Morgan Boyle.
Zac Fulton, grandson of the late Immortal Bob Fulton, has been named 18th man – but may come off the bench in what would also be his first grade debut.
According to Sportsbet’s head to head betting market, the Sea Eagles are rank outsiders at $5.50.
And as the issue continues to divide footy fans and be a major talking point, the seven Manly players who chose to boycott the match have been advised by NSW Police to steer clear of 4 Pines Park for their own safety.