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Manly fans have their say on Pride jersey

Mnaly fans have had their say on their club’s Pride-themed jersey, with the bulk of supporters throwing their weight behind their campaign.

The Roar spoke to a bunch of fans at 4 Pines Park on Thursday night about the initiative, which has been met with controversy and acclaim in equal measure.

Seven players – Haumole Olakau’atu, Josh Aloiai, Tolutau Koula, Christian Tuipulotu, Toafofoa Sipley, Josh Schuster and Jason Saab – have pulled out of the opening fixture of Women in League Round as they say the jersey conflicts with their religious and cultural beliefs.

Within half an hour of the gates opening, the Pride jerseys on sale at the ground had all but sold out and plenty of fans could be seen wearing them around 4 Pines Park.

Mark, wearing a box-fresh Pride jersey, said that it was a confusing week for the club, but presented an opportunity for the club and the game to move forwards.

“When I first saw it in the media, I forgot all about the Women in League Round,” he said.

“I thought ‘what a good idea’, and it doesn’t look too bad. Then it all blew up in the next few days, so I got one to support the club.

“Dessie and DCE at the press conference, they handled it really well and I thought I could show some support for them. You’ve got to show up good or bad. Something good will come of this.

“Do we want to go backwards or do we want to take the opportunity to look forwards? We’re all in this stadium together, we share it together and we breathe the same air.

“It’s our opportunity to have our Rosa Parks moment and take a big step forward. I hope something good comes of it.”

Mark admitted that the whole affair had not been handled well by the club, and said that he supported the players’ right not to play.

“The way it was handled was a dog’s breakfast, with the players pulling out in a critical game,” he said.

“I fully support that, it’s their right, but it’s supposed to be inclusive. I thought I’d go buy a jersey to support the club, the coaching staff, the players that are playing and the seven that are not.

“We’re all in this game together and once you run past that white line, everyone is equal on the football field.”

Ava, Emilia and Jade had just bought theirs and were not happy with the seven players who have chosen to skip the Roosters match.

“We’re not impressed,” they said. “It’s seriously lame. They need to pull their heads in. If it was up to me, they would be playing.

“They go out to the pubs when that’s against their religion and the betting stuff, but they can’t wear a jersey with a bit of a rainbow. It’s a uniform. Put it on and play the game.

“We felt compelled to go the merch stand today,’ they said. “I wanted to get the Pride jersey. We support the cause. I was pretty chuffed to hear we were the first to do it. Now’s the time.

“The NRLW is definitely ahead. If they did it right, it would have been a good integration into Women in League Round, if the management was better around the jersey.

Naturally, there were heightened views on both sides, and one Manly fan told The Roar that he would not be watching the game in protest.

Manly fans show their colours at 4 Pines Park. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“I’ve been a Manly fan for over 45 years,” said Robby, who owns a barber shop bedecked in Sea Eagles memorabilia.

“It’s been handled extremely poorly by the club and the management. I refuse to watch the game tonight because my belief is the same as the players’ belief.

“Rugby league is about everybody coming together, but I don’t necessarily have to wear something that is against what I believe in.”

Manly CEO Scott Penn released a late statement, hours before the game, doubling down on his club’s stance and backing the club to wear it again in 2023.

“The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles represent inclusiveness,” he said.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 04: Jason Saab of the Sea Eagles celebrates scoring a try with team mates during the round 13 NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the New Zealand Warriors at 4 Pines Park, on June 04, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Jason Saab celebrates scoring a try with teammates. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“We do not discriminate between an individual’s race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation or anything else that we should be celebrating collectively as an evolved society.

“But whilst the intention of why we wanted to do this was authentic – and still is – we must learn from how the message was lost in translation through the process of implementation.

“I accept that our own genuine narrative of why we wanted to celebrate inclusiveness has been lost.

“Our promotion of inclusiveness – and why we were doing it – needed to start more broadly internally – with all staff and players engaged before it was communicated publicly.

“We have learned lessons from this and we hope others may learn lessons from this also, but we will make no apologies for why we were motivated to do it.

“I have read a lot of the commentary this week before arriving back in Sydney today. Some of it is fair, some is not.

“But I accept that Manly Warringah Sea Eagles now has the job to unite its club, players, supporters and become the leader of inclusiveness that we whole-heartedly desire to be.”

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