Souths keen on Roberts visit: Demetriou

·2-min read

South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou would be eager for former Rabbitoh Ian Roberts to attend training to speak about his experiences as Australia's only openly gay male rugby league player.

The topic is making news as the NRL deliberates whether to introduce a league-wide pride round in 2023.

In 1995, Roberts came out while contracted with Manly, who on Thursday night became the first club in NRL history to wear a jersey themed around LGBTQIA+ inclusion.

The now-56-year-old applauded Manly's decision to persist with wearing their Everyone In League jersey despite the objections of seven players, who stood down from the match against the Sydney Roosters on religious grounds.

Roberts said it would be special if Souths and North Queensland, the other NRL sides for whom he played, followed Manly's lead and introduced their own pride initiatives in the seasons to come.

"I'd love to see rainbow-coloured Rabbitohs or Cowboys. I'd love for them to get on board and have their own pride rounds," Roberts said this week.

Demetriou said he would happily welcome Roberts back to Redfern to meet with his players and discuss the possibility of a pride round for 2023.

"I'd love for Ian to come down and sit down with the boys and really explain the importance of a pride round or the potential to wear the jersey," he said.

"We're an inclusive club. We always have been. It's part of our DNA.

"(Roberts) would have some really good insights for the players."

Religious members of Manly's playing group claimed not to have been notified about the Everyone In League jersey until the weekend before kick-off and Demetriou said inclusion initiatives were at their most worthwhile when they were preceded by meaningful discussions with the players.

"That's important. I don't like doing things just as a token," he said.

"It's important to people in our community, so let's talk about it and let's make sure that if we do it we're really getting behind it, rather than half doing it.

"Having (a jersey) forced on you is very different from sitting down and having a conversation and understanding the background to the LGBTQ community."

Demetriou's comments came after his Sydney Roosters counterpart Trent Robinson and Manly chairman Scott Penn backed calls for a league-wide pride round for 2023.

"We will take some learnings out of this but the most important thing is we will be bigger and stronger next year," Penn told AAP.

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