Security is expected to be tightened around the seven Manly players boycotting Thursday night's game against the Roosters amid fears fans may vent their anger and frustration after a week of controversy over the pride jumper furore.
The Sea Eagles are a club divided after the group – including Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau'atu, Tolu Koula and Toafofoa Sipley - withdrew after refusing to wear a jersey featuring the gay pride rainbow.
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Their stance has been backed by many who respect their right not to go against their beliefs and cultural sensibilities, but also strongly condemned by others for sending a homophobic message.
The self-exiles will attend the game to support their hastily re-modelled team in a match vital to Manly's finals hopes, but Yahoo Sport Australia has been told supporters at 4 Pines Park will be kept at a safe distance from the group after venue security was alerted to the potential problem.
There's a real fear the players could be the target of verbal abuse from disgruntled fans if the new-look side is well beaten.
"We will see some of that behaviour because there will always be supporters who only relate to themselves, where the team's performance is all about them," Manly Supporters' Group spokesman Robert Simeon told Yahoo Sport Australia.
"When we lose they blow up like it’s the end of the world and begin a pilgrimage to blame the referee or whatever comes to mind.
"But overall I think the mood at the game will be really positive. I and the vast majority of the Manly Sea Eagle fan base are fully supportive of all our players - they have our backs."
Club officials admit Manly made a big mistake
Simeon made it clear he blames club hierarchy – not the seven players – for placing the Sea Eagles in this predicament.
He said: "The point is we should not be in this position.
"We need to separate the contentious issues here which all relate to the club's decision to roll out the pride jersey without consideration of the ramifications and with zero consultation with the playing group.
"This has put the players, staff, members and supporters in a very difficult position.
"This should never have happened. It is gross mismanagement and incompetence."
Asked by Yahoo Sport Australia if he expected a backlash from his club's fans, coach Des Hasler said: "I can't answer that."
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