A number of Manly players have come under fire after showing their public support for former teammate Manase Fainu, who was recently found guilty of stabbing a church leader outside a Mormon charity event.
The once rising NRL star was found guilty of stabbing church youth leader Faamanu Levi in a brawl outside a dance party in Wattle Grove, Sydney late at night on October 25, 2019.
'HE WAS SICK': Kalyn Ponga's father responds to toilet cubicle video
The hooker pleaded not guilty to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, but the jury took just two hours to deliver its guilty verdict.
Despite the guilty verdict, a number of Manly players showed their support for Fainu during their game against the Titans on Sunday.
After scoring a try that was later disallowed, Haumole Olakau'atu gestured the numbers ‘61’ towards a camera - an apparent reference to the 2161 Guildford postcode where he grew up in with Fainu.
Olakau'atu also appeared to hold his wrists together to imitate being in handcuffs.
Josh Schuster also wrote Fainu's initials on his wrist strapping and sent a message to his former teammate after the game.
“See ya soon my toko (brother in Tongan),” he wrote on Instagram.
NRL world in uproar over Manly players' actions
The players' actions have sparked debate in the rugby league world, with Olakau'atu and Schuster among the seven players who refused to wear Manly's pride jersey last month.
“This is the issue … is it protest or is it support?” veteran journalist Paul Kent said on NRL360.
“Because only a couple of weeks ago we were here on this show, particularly me, defending the values of Olakau’atu and a few of the players at that club for their stance with the pride jersey and I said whether you like it or not they follow a Christian faith and they are defending that faith.
“A fortnight later they’re now coming out in support of a guy who has just been convicted of stabbing a bloke essentially.
“You can’t have it both ways with these guys and the NRL and the postcode gang wars in Sydney at the moment are costing lives, literally. There was a stabbing at the Easter show earlier this year, the police have got involved with players particularly from Penrith and Parramatta Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Nathan Cleary and Junior Paulo have all been exceptional in the time and support they’ve given the program.
“Whether these blokes are aware of it or not they are contributing to the problem. And to have some sort of social conscious in the game which they tried to exhibit a few weeks ago whether you agree with it or not and we came out in support of their right to follow their own faith, here they are a fortnight later in support of a guy who’s about to go to jail for stabbing a bloke in a fight that was born out of a gang fight based on these postcodes.”
Fellow journalist Paul Crawley added: “They’re using the NRL and Fox as a stage to show their support. That’s where it’s wrong, that’s where the game has to be tough.
“There’s concern that at some clubs there is gang culture and Manly is one of them and you have to stamp it out, that’s where the game has to be tough.”
Fans were also heavily critical of the players' actions, particularly in the wake of the pride jersey fiasco.
Manly is making it very hard to be a supporter these days. Coming from a bloke that has grown up there with his Dad and Uncle both playing 1st grade for them.
— phil murray (@biglittlemuz) August 16, 2022
Yea, they really choose interesting hills to die on, don't they. Rainbow on their jersey nah, support teammate going to jail for stabbing someone yea gets right behind that. Makes perfect sense /s
— Liam Warren (@liam_warren94) August 16, 2022
Fine him $50k and set an example!
— T-Bag 🇦🇺 (@Thomas58974615) August 16, 2022
They need to be stood down. Public support for violence and criminality is intolerable.
— Mitch (@MitchIsaacJohns) August 16, 2022
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.