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The New South Wales Treasurer has weighed into the controversy surrounding NRL side the Manly Sea Eagles after seven players boycotted this week’s match to avoid wearing a rainbow-decorated pride jersey.
Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley will all sit out Thursday’s clash against the Roosters because the jersey, which promotes the inclusion of the LGBTQ community in rugby league, clashes with their religious and cultural beliefs.

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean on Tuesday took to Twitter to call out the players’ stance.

Treasurer Matt Kean calls out Manly Sea Eagles for boycotting pride jersey. (Brook Mitchell)

“Can someone tell those seven Manly players the (rainbow) isn’t contagious, but wearing it might make them better for showing pride and respect for different people,” he said.

“If there’s an NRL pride round next year, I hope the mighty Dragons go red, white and rainbow!”

Manly coach Des Hasler had earlier fronted a press conference with club captain Daly Cherry-Evans, where he apologised for the “execution” of the jersey.

“We are here today to apologise for a significant mistake made by the Manly club,” he said.

“The change to our traditional jersey was the application of the rainbow colours. The intent was to represent diversity and inclusion to embrace all groups who feel marginalised and face discrimination.

“Sadly, the execution of what was intended to be an extremely important initiative was poor.”

The Sea Eagles revealed the jersey on Monday, but had not talked to players before making the decision to wear the rainbow-themed strip.

The Manly Sea Eagles pride jersey. (Supplied)

“There was little consultation or collaboration with key stakeholders, both inside and outside the club,” Hasler said.

“This poor management has caused significant confusion, discomfort and pain for many people, in particular those groups whose human rights we were attempting to support.

“We have even adversely impacted our playing group, a wonderful group of people comprising many different racial and cultural backgrounds.”

Manly coach Des Hasler says the club made a "significant mistake" over the handling of its pride jersey.
Manly coach Des Hasler says the club made a “significant mistake” over the handling of its pride jersey. (Getty)

Ian Roberts, the former Sea Eagle who is the only professional rugby league player to have ever come out as gay, said he believes the time is now ripe for the NRL to introduce a pride round.

“I’ve put some proposals forward to the NRL for the last three or four years, the last one I was told by a third party was an excellent proposal,” Roberts said on Tuesday.

“I had meetings organised, those meetings were cancelled and have been put off ever since.

“I had (ARLC Chairman) Peter V’landys tell me that proposal was first-class and we need to speak about this. Well, now is the time.”

V’landys said earlier on Tuesday that such a round could be introduced as early as next year, while Cherry-Evans, who is a leading voice within the Rugby League Players Association, also expressed his support for the concept.

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