Josh Aloiai interview that could have saved Des Hasler's job at Manly

Josh Aloiai and Des Hasler are pictured side by side.
Had Josh Aloiai fronted media and explained the perspective of Manly players who refused to wear the club's pride jersey, coach Des Hasler could potentially still be in his job as coach. Pictures: Channel 9/Getty Images

If Josh Aloiai – the figurehead of Manly's anti-rainbow rebels – had been allowed to speak when the whole Pride jersey furore first blew up, maybe the rugby league world would look a little different right now.

The Sea Eagles may not have lost six straight games after the fiasco, Des Hasler might still be in a job instead of being a "former" Sea Eagles coach and we wouldn't still be taking about the issue 12 weeks after it first broke.

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Manly's stance at the time was to deny the media any opportunity to talk to any of the seven players who refused wear the Pride jersey on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Hasler thought by cutting off access to his players, the issue would eventually disappear from the news.

It never did and never would until it was completely addressed.

It was naïve to think otherwise.

That's just the way the media works.

As they tell you on the first day in PR crisis management: "Respond quickly to define and control public perception of how you are handling the crisis or the media will do it for you.

"Don't allow for speculation."

Hasler and Daly Cherry-Evans did an admirable job of addressing the issue when it first surfaced, but the mistake was not letting the anti-rainbow brigade talk as well.

Speculation ran rife as a result.

There was too much interest in the story despite fans saying enough was enough, with online traffic figures often contradicting what supporters deem newsworthy.

Once the season ended and players left the controlled confines of their club, members of the rebel seven were always going to be hit up for comment.

It was just a matter who would get the interview first and with which player.

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Josh Schuster, Tolu Koula and Haumole Olakau'atu were all asked for comment but either refused or couldn’t quite articulate the reasoning for their decision to sit out the round 20 clash with the Roosters.

It was left to Aloiai, on duty with Samoa at the World Cup in the north of England, to finally break the silence in full via Emma Lawrence on Channel 9.

He was always the most senior of the payers to sit out the Roosters game and an obvious choice to act as some sort of spokesman.

Josh Aloiai is pictured being crowded by Manly Sea Eagles teammates.
Josh Aloiai says he and other Manly teammates have no intention of wearing a pride-themed jersey next season should the club go down that road once more. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Whatever you think of the rebels' stance, Aloiai came across as open, strong and considered as he explained why the players opted out of wearing the Pride jersey.

What a pity he wasn't allowed to speak three months ago.

Maybe the issue would have been put to rest or at least doused to some extent.

Aloiai's words came too late to save Manly's season.

And they came much too late to save Hasler.

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