Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans revealed the fallout over the gay pride jersey debacle has not divided his team but instead strengthened resolve around sending out a powerful message when the patched-up Sea Eagles take on the Roosters on Thursday night.
Seven Manly players – Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau'atu, Tolu Koula and Toafofoa Sipley - will sit out the game after refusing to wear the one-off pride jumper showcasing the rainbow colours, citing religious and cultural concerns.
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Their absence and the controversy around it threatens to derail Manly's season, but Cherry-Evans is looking beyond the two points as the club looks to repair the damage caused by its ill-considered plan.
"Sometimes the hardest situations in sport are to try and deal with situations that are out of your control. But one thing we can control as a playing group is accepting the decision that some players have made and probably trying to find the silver lining in all of this," he said.
"There are going to be 17 players out there celebrating inclusiveness and diversity.
"I think it's a really good initiative. It's going to be 17 people out there doing a lot of people proud and hopefully make some people that are feeling a little bit vulnerable more welcomed in society.
"I think it's a really good initiative. Hopefully we can start to shift our attention towards the good intentions that we had."
No internal repercussions for Manly player boycott
The skipper insisted there would be no repercussions internally for the seven players boycotting the match and their immediate welfare would be paramount.
Many Manly fans are livid with their decision and are likely to let their feelings known on Thursday night.
Coach Des Hasler confirmed all seven players would be at 4 Pines Park for the game.
"We have to make sure we look after our teammates because it's going to be a period they haven't experienced before as professional athletes," Cherry-Evans said.
"With those actions come consequences and repercussions and we just have to make sure that if any of these things get too out of hand, we're there to support our teammates for their decisions
"Stuff like this isn't a topic of conversation unless we're put in the situation, so we're experiencing a lot of things for the first time as a playing group.
"But these are decisions that we have to accept. For someone like myself as a captain, I see the opportunity in this to really bring a group together and try and do something special on Thursday night.
"We're trying to play finals football and every game counts and we're playing against the side that's not far away from us on the ladder. Every match counts, so we get all that."
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