Manly star Jake Trbojevic has set the record straight about a number of ugly rumours to do with him and the embattled Sea Eagles club.
Trbojevic is currently in England as a member of the Australia squad which is preparing for Saturday's quarter-final showdown against Lebanon at the Rugby League World Cup.
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Jake and his superstar brother Tom Trbojevic have found themselves at the centre of the drama surrounding their beloved Manly club, following reports last month that the pair could seek a move away from the club in the wake of Des Hasler's sacking.
Hasler was shown the door by the Sea Eagles in the culmination of a horror few months at Manly, punctuated by the rainbow jersey debacle that was said to have divided the playing group.
The Trbojevic brothers unsuccessfully tried to have clauses inserted into their big-money contracts that tied into Hasler's coaching role, with fears the veteran mentor's axing could see the brothers seek a release from Manly.
Speaking from Kangaroos camp in England, Jake insisted that he and his brother have never had any intention of leaving their boyhood club.
"We definitely didn't want to (leave), that didn't come from us," he said.
"We love Manly and grew up in Manly.
"It's definitely hard at times seeing your loyalty get questioned when we've worked really hard and we want Manly to do well.
"It's been great being here (in England), (you) don't go on social media, don't read anything and you just keep going on with your business."
Jake was also at the centre of speculation that he didn't get along with Manly captain and Kangaroos teammate, Daly Cherry Evans - something the superstar forward was quick to refute.
"That was frustrating to hear and I don't like seeing it, I'm a really good friend of Daly's," Trbojevic said.
"It's tough to see and I try not to think about it. It's people making it awkward for us and it's fine.
"We get on really well and had a great time over here and have been hanging out heaps. I don't know where that comes from."
The 28-year-old admits he was upset that Hasler was axed as Manly coach, but says the players now need to "move on" for the benefit of the club.
“I felt sorry for him. I'm a big fan of Des, I don't think that's any sort of secret," Trbojevic added.
“He's been a really good coach for me for four years and I learned a lot off him and enjoyed playing under him.
“I guess the club made the decision for a reason. Last year wasn't great, so we're going to try and get better.
“What can we do? We've got to move on and move forward to next year.”
Manly rocked by rainbow jersey controversy
Anthony Seibold is widely expected to be handed a three-year deal as Manly's next head coach and Trbojevic has thrown his support behind the former Souths and Brisbane mentor.
Seibold's biggest task could be uniting a playing group seemingly divided by the 'Manly 7's' rainbow jersey boycott, with Josh Aloiai indicating that he would again be unwilling to wear the pride-themed strip next year, if Manly went down that path.
Aloiai - who revealed he has a gay sister - says he and the other six players staged the rainbow jersey boycotts because of their cultural and religious beliefs.
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) October 25, 2022
He said while the 'Manly 7' were unwilling to endorse LGBTIQA+ ideals, they still respected the rights of people within that community.
However, Manly club legend Ian Roberts - the first openly gay man in professional rugby league in Australia - labelled that stance "ignorant" and "hypocritical".
“Why isn’t he (Aloiai) going to wear the jumper? I still don’t think I’ve heard a deep enough reason for him to say that,” Roberts told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“He sounds very ignorant. He says, ‘We’re accepting of all people. But I draw the line at wearing a rainbow’.
“He’s saying he is loving and Christian but the acceptance isn’t for everyone. It’s contradictory and it’s hypocritical.”
Trbojevic denies the controversy was the reason for Manly's late season collapse and says he and the players are keen to put it behind them.
"They have their view and I was fine with it, I understand their biggest thing is religion, my biggest thing is footy," he said.
"The fact that we lost seven after has made people keep talking about it.
"Why are we going to dwell on it and let one game affect us moving forward? I don't want to lose seven in a row, it sucks."
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