Manly Sea Eagles, LGBTQIA, pride jersey, seven players refusing, which players, Roosters game, Ian Roberts

Manly Sea Eagles press conference live, LGBTQIA, pride jersey, seven players refusing, which players, Roosters game, Ian Roberts

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and rugby league boss Peter V’landys have spoken on the controversy engulfing Manly as coach Des Hasler and captain Daly Cherry-Evans prepare to front the media from midday AEST.

Seven players are set to miss the Sea Eagles’ Thursday night showdown against the Sydney Roosters over the club’s decision to wear a pride jersey.

Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley are currently not playing after standing down on religious grounds.

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Sea Eagles owner Scott Penn said the club will go ahead with its LGBTQIA kit on Thursday, even if it means fielding a weakened side in a game that could have massive implications on their final chances.

V’Landys criticized the club for failing to consult players before announcing they’d be wearing a pride jersey, but said he respected the players’ decision.

“I respect the players’ choice, they have religious and cultural differences and that’s the beauty about Australia, we all have those freedoms,” V’Landys said.

“Let me say this though, one thing I take pride in, in rugby league, is we treat everyone the same, we’re all human beings, it doesn’t matter what your colour, doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is , doesn’t matter what your race is, we’re all equal and we’ll never ever take a backward step in having our sport inclusive.

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“But at the same time we will not disrespect those players’ freedoms and they’ve got those freedoms and if they don’t wish to play I respect that but they are well aware of our policy of inclusion.

“Manly could have handled it better, they could have been a lot more collaborative with the players, they should have respected the players, they shouldn’t have just sprung it upon them.

“Manly admit themselves they shouldn’t have sprung that on them.”

Albanese praised his friend and Manly legend Ian Roberts who became the first NRL player to come out as gay while playing for the club in 1995.

“He showed incredible courage,” Albanese said.

“He wasn’t the first gay man to play rugby league… He was the first to be able to have the courage to come out. And that paved the way for others to do so.

“It’s important in Australian society that we respect everyone for who they are.”

Coach Des Hasler and captain Daly Cherry-Evans will front the media at 12pm AEST.

Manly pride jersey boycott controversy | 03:08

The Sea Eagles will be the first club in rugby league history to wear an LGBTQIA jersey.

The players are boycotting a show of support for diversity and inclusivity. LGBTQIA stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual people.

“It was totally an inclusivity and diversity jersey,” Penn told the SMH.

“It was never just about pride. It was about saying we want everyone in the game and making them feel they can get involved. Players have been put in a tough position.

“We’re not going to force them to play, but we’re committed to the jersey and we’re committed to inclusion. We’re not walking away from our position. And we respect their beliefs.

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“It’s just disappointing we’re here. We don’t want those players to be outcasts, but as a club we celebrate and support everyone. We have only done this from a good-hearted point of view.”

Several players posed in the jersey titled “everyone in league” on Monday, with rainbow colors replacing the traditional white strip.

Sean Keppie, Kieran Foran and Reuben Garrick all smiled for photos in the jersey but some of their teammates were not happy, calling the club on Monday when they first learned of it.

Manly coach Des Hasler told the players he would support the decision, “understanding the difficult position the players have been put in as a result of the club not consulting them about the jersey”, per the SMH.

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Sea Eagles great Roberts, the first and only Australian rugby league player to come out as openly gay, was hoping to attend the game this Thursday.

“I try to see it from all perspectives but this breaks my heart,” Roberts told 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 push back. 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.”

The loss will cruel the Sea Eagles’ chances of making the finals, as they sit ninth and face the Roosters who are eighth on Thursday.

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