The fallout over the Manly pride jersey controversy shows few signs of dying down, with reports the issue has exposed deep "divisions" between the Sea Eagles' playing group.
It's understood a players-only meeting was held at the Manly club on Sunday to try and talk through the issues and discuss the best way to move forward as a team.
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Seven players – Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau'atu, Tolu Koula and Toafofoa Sipley - stood down from Thursday night's crunch game against the Roosters after refusing to wear the gay pride-themed jersey because of their religious and cultural beliefs.
The understrength Sea Eagles lost 20-10 against top-eight rivals the Roosters, in what could prove a crucial blow to their chances of playing finals footy.
Manly coach Des Hasler, captain Daly Cherry-Evans and owner Scott Penn have all lamented how the situation was handled at the club, but say they support the boycotting players and respect their beliefs.
Despite Manly's attempts to move on from the drama, reports have emerged about a "split" in the playing group between those who played against the Roosters and those who stood down.
The Daily Telegraph’s Dean Ritchie says although Manly are trying to paint a supportive and united front, the reality is much different.
“There is divisions at Manly and anyone who tells you there is not is telling a fib,” Ritchie said on The Big Sports Breakfast.
“The players that played were dirty on the players that didn’t play.
“They are trying to sort it out and understand each other’s religious beliefs and views, but there is division there."
Speaking on NRL 360 on Monday night, The Daily Telegraph's Phil Rothfield echoed those sentiments and said Sunday's meeting between the players didn't clear everything up.
“I think the meeting yesterday cleared it up a little bit, but you can’t repair a split of this magnitude with a bandaid in a 45 minute meeting.
“I think when something as drastic as this happens when seven men pull out of a finals crunch match over a view and an opinion and the other guys are totally on the opposite side.
“They put their views and opinions ahead of a finals berth almost.”
Pride jersey drama 'could derail' Manly's season
NRL 360 co-host and premiership winner Braith Anasta says as former player it would be hard for him to reconcile with the fact that the player boycott jeopardised months of hard work from Manly's squad to get into a position to play finals footy.
“I agree and I’m just thinking now as a player the majority of the playing group you train from November all the way through,” Anasta said.
“You put your body on the line every week. You put your heart and soul into it. You make sacrifices every single day.
“These players have got a few teammates who have made a different decision than the rest of the team and it can cause a divide and it seems to be that way.
“It could derail their season. We spoke about it before the game that it could happen and it is possibly happening right now.
“There are no winners and losers here. The fact is it doesn’t matter what they are arguing over or have a split of opinion over. It can cause a divide and it looks to be causing a divide.”
Manly now turn their attentions to Friday night's home clash with sixth-placed Parramatta, where another defeat would leave their finals hopes hanging by a thread.
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