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Manly captain Daly Cherry Evans has offered an insight into where his playing group stands after going down to the Sydney Roosters on Thursday night in a match shrouded in controversy surrounding the pride jersey furore.
The Sea Eagles were gutsy in the 20-10 loss to the Roosters, playing without the seven men who refused to wear the club's rainbow jersey on religious, cultural and family grounds.
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Most fans probably expected the Roosters to run riot against a makeshift Sea Eagles side without a host of talent and experience, and containing three players making their NRL debuts.
Cherry-Evans' troops fought bravely though and even had the chance to celebrate a try on debut for Alfred Smalley - the 23-year-old winger who is used to plying his trade in the NSW Cup.
Ultimately, the boycott from the seven players could prove very costly for Manly's finals chances, with the Roosters' win taking them two points clear of the Sea Eagles in the top eight.
Speaking after the game, the Manly skipper addressed the pride jersey drama that has threatened to tear the club apart, insisting that he and teammates respect the decision from the seven players who boycotted the game.
"It's really important for us to understand where everyone comes from," Cherry-Evans said.
"How can we not go in there and understand and accept what people have done if we are out here trying to promote inclusiveness and diversity?
"It's not easy ... there is human emotion to this, so it's never going to be perfect.
"But I always see the opportunity in things. I think this could be a chance for us to come together and understand a bit more about each other."
When asked if his side's fight on Thursday night was a statement of how unified the club were, Manly coach Des Hasler admitted the Sea Eagles still had some work to do.
"It's been very emotional on all different aspects," Hasler said.
"But we're humans and as long as we take some learning lessons out of it and as long as we grow and I think tolerance going forward (it's a positive).
"It's never going to be solved but at the same time we certainly don't want to be shying away from it."
Manly learn lessons from messy saga
Hasler also said he could see the seven players being willing to take up to offer from club great Ian Roberts, who broke new ground when came out in his playing days, to meet with them.
Manly intend on wearing the inclusivity jersey again next year, with owner Scott Penn confident the players would feature and hopeful it will be part of a league-wide initiative.
However, Cherry-Evans has warned the game has to be careful at times not too push too much on players without proper consultation, be it with any issue.
"We need to be really careful about how much we push on players to commercialise the game," the players' union general president said.
"If you look at a dressing room as an NRL squad, it is very diverse and very inclusive.
"I think at some stage we need to understand that sport is pretty inclusive. It's not perfect, it does have boundaries.
"I know from my time in the game it does represent a lot of the things we are talking about.
"But unfortunately when people get put in a position to have to do something they don't want to do, that's when you see positions like (Manly faced)."
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