Popular Sydney broadcaster Ray Hadley has slammed the Manly Sea Eagles over what he labelled the "unforgivable" treatment of Kristie Fulton, the club's former pathways co-ordinator.
Fulton - daughter of the late Manly legend and rugby league 'Immortal' Bob Fulton - joined a growing list of staffers to be shown the door at Manly, following the sacking of coach Des Hasler.
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Axed Manly icon Hasler had threatened legal action after arguing that the rainbow jersey furore - in which seven players boycotted a match against the Roosters over the pride-themed strips - had hampered his ability to fulfil his contractual obligations.
Hasler would have triggered an automatic contract extension if Manly had finished 2022 in the top six, but the club failed to win one more game for the rest of the season after the rainbow jersey controversy.
The Sea Eagles then decided to terminate the final year of Hasler's deal for 2023, in a move that could see the former coach seek further compensation to a reported $450,000 payout.
The messy saga has led to numerous reports of a rift in the Manly playing group, ahead of the likely appointment of Anthony Seibold as the club's new coach.
Hasler's exit has sparked a number of subsequent departures at Manly, with The Daily Telegraph reporting last week that Fulton left the club's Brookvale offices in tears after being sacked, effective immediately.
Hadley was a close friend of Fulton's father Bob and has savaged Manly for their treatment of the club legend's daughter.
The veteran rugby league caller claimed on his 2GB radio program that Fulton was “marched out of the Manly offices" shortly after being terminated for "allegedly bullying someone".
He claims Fulton was afforded no formal warning and did not meet with HR before she was unceremoniously sacked.
“She was marched off the premises like she had stolen money from the petty cash tin," Hadley said.
“How is it that a capable, highly intelligent young woman is marched out the door when her father’s name adorns the grandstand at Manly?
“Is anyone at Manly inquiring into Kristie’s mental health? No doubt, (club owner) Scott Penn isn’t, he’s probably winging his way back to the US, already there.
“Employers have the right to hire and fire but under workplace laws, they must do so in a lawful way.”
Hadley went on to claim that Fulton had raised concerns about the rainbow jersey fiasco that was ultimately credited with destroying Manly's finals hopes and ending Hasler's second stint as Sea Eagles coach.
“Kristie told various people the so-called Rainbow Round would cause problems,” Hadley said.
“Well, it did more than that. It cost Manly their season and eventually cost (coach) Des Hasler his job.
“They (Manly) decided to do this when we were supposed to be celebrating Women in League round.
“Perhaps the fact that they just threw the Women in League round out the window and replaced it with Rainbow Round tells you how the Manly club values the worth of women in the game of rugby league.”
'Manly 7' players stand by rainbow jersey boycott
Hadley's remarks come after Josh Schuster last week became the first of the so-called 'Manly 7' to break his silence on the infamous rainbow jersey fiasco.
Schuster admitted to Nine News that while the rainbow jersey saga was regrettable, he stands by the religious and cultural beliefs that underpinned the decision to boycott wearing the strip.
"It was a difficult period, but I put my faith and personal beliefs first, he said.
Asked if he had "no regrets", Schuster replied: "Yeah, definitely".
"Like I said before, my personal beliefs and faith come first."
#EXCLUSIVE: Josh Schuster, one of the seven Manly players who refused to wear the @SeaEagles pride jersey, has now spoken about the controversy.
Schuster discusses his faith - and his devastation - at the sacking of Des Hasler. @Danny_Weidler #9News pic.twitter.com/UYRrISAzgQ
— 9News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) October 20, 2022
Sea Eagles teammates Haumole Olakau’atu and Tolu Koula - who are both in England as part of Tonga's Rugby League World Cup squad - also expressed similar positions to Schuster.
“It was really difficult,” Olakau’atu said.
“I don’t know what else to say. I hope everyone just respects our decision and moves on. My faith comes first before anything. It is who I am.
“I called my parents after finding out about the jersey that night and they said just to follow my heart. It made it 10 times easier, especially growing up in a religious family.”
Koula thanked Hasler for helping him grow as a player, after admitting that he copped plenty of hate over the jersey boycott.
“There was some hate out there but I tried not to pay too much attention to it,” Koula told News Corp.
“During that period I tried to stay off social media as much as I could. It was pretty tough not winning too many games at the back end of the season. I think the main thing for us boys was trying to stay closer to each other.
“It was a rollercoaster of a season to say the least.”
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