Manly seven stay home after missed chance

·3-min read

Manly have told their seven boycotting players not to attend Thursday night's clash against the Sydney Roosters for safety reasons as the fallout of their jersey controversy continues.

The Sea Eagles will wear the league's first pride jersey, but not before a week of drama that resulted in the request for players to stay at home to ensure their safety.

The club took another hit on Wednesday night with prop Sean Keppie ruled out of the crucial match with a shoulder injury and Bob Fulton's grandson Zac set to debut off the bench.

It also became clearer how several opportunities for the players and NRL bosses to be made aware of the jersey and better prepared for the initiative slipped through the cracks in planning that began as early as the pre-season.

It's believed Dynasty Sport offered the inclusive rainbow design to several clubs, with Manly the only NRL team to take up the option.

The design then had to be put to the NRL's licensing team, before manufacturing was approved after some minor changes.

Some clubs have already sent the Anzac Round designs for 2023 to ensure they do not clash, but it is unclear when Manly's was officially entered as it was not for a specific round.

In the time since, Manly have parted ways with chief executive Stephen Humphreys with his replacement not due to start until next week.

That is also just the start of the process.

Clubs submit their planned strips for each round of the year well in advance, with those for the second half of the season to be entered around April.

Once in, the jersey would have been ticked off on by the NRL's football department given it did not in any way clash with the Roosters' jersey.

At that point everyone that mattered was across the design after its official approval, except for Manly's players, coaches and the NRL's bosses.

Ultimately, that failure in communication cost the Sea Eagles what should have been a landmark moment.

Instead, little time was available to explain to players the reasoning behind the significance of the "everyone in league" jersey, which included the LGBTQI community.

The seven players had religious, cultural and in most cases family issues on their mind, and opted not to wear the jersey.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys was also still bewildered on Wednesday as to why Manly had chosen Women in League Round to use the jersey.

He too was in the dark until just before the story broke, with other departments merely ticking off requirements and not feeling the need to pass the jersey up the chain.

In that time, Manly management also did not contact the NRL to run them through their plans, perhaps another result of not having a CEO.

Had the NRL's top brass been informed, it is likely they would have consulted the Rugby League Players' Association on the matter to ensure a collaborative approach.

It's also likely the jersey would have been pushed to another weekend, not to overshadow Women in League Round.

Instead, the end result is a Manly side missing seven fit players on Thursday night, with two wingers on debut and a bench utility playing for the first time since 2019.

It's the kind of the line-up that would leave the likes of James Tedesco, Luke Keary, Joey Manu and Sam Walker licking their lips.

It's also the kind of siege mentality Hasler's sides have usually thrived on.

Not that Roosters coach Trent Robinson can't see it working this time, with both teams level on wins in eighth and ninth.

"The issue has been created by them, usually siege mentalities are against an opponent that does something to you," Robinson said.

"I don't think they can take that line."

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