The Manly 7 players in the National Rugby League (NRL), who have stirred up controversy in the media for refusing to wear the pride jersey this week have reportedly been furious at claims by club owner Scott Penn that stated that they would be open to donning the inclusive gear next year. 

The Sea Eagles players have shut down any reports that they would backflip on their decision to boycott donning the pride jersey, including future games. 

Penn initially revealed that the seven jersey boycotters (Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley) were committed to finding a solution to the dispute and would be open to wearing the pride jersey in the 2023 season on Thursday evening.

 He described the decision to boycott as centred on a lack of consultation regarding the players’ religious and cultural beliefs. 

Speaking to 9News, Penn confirmed the jerseys would return next season and that the players have indicated they were open to getting involved.

“That’s the message they were very clear on — let’s work together,” he said.

However, 9News sports reporter Danny Weidler announced a new twist in the Manly controversy, stating that the players were “fuming” with the club owner and dismissed Penn’s claims that they would be open to wearing the pride jersey. 

Weidler posted to Twitter on Friday, “Manly 7 fuming about claim they will soften their stance on ‘pride jersey’. A representative of the group contacted me to say, “they don’t backflip on religious beliefs” and to suggest they would fold on their stance is “totally untrue”. 

This development follows coach Des Hasler’s admission that the off-field issues have forced his club to feel the sting of dispute and driven apart players within the squad. 

Hasler admitted that the club had made a “significant mistake”, apologising on behalf of Manly Sea Eagles during the pride club’s jersey fiasco during the press conference on Tuesday. However, his apology has drawn criticism from members of the LGBQTI+ community and allies, with journalist Alex Mitchell calling the press conference “outrageous” and “so disappointing.” 

“You can’t apologise to both the LGBTQI+ community and then the players refusing to wear a pride jumper in the same breath,” Mitchell tweeted on Tuesday. 

Ian Roberts, the first rugby player to come out as gay told Fox Sports that the controversy “breaks my heart.”

Roberts has been pushing the NRL to introduce an annual Pride Round for a number of years, along the lines of the existing Indigenous Round and Women In League Round.

He described donning the pride jersey as not a thing of “exclusivity” but about “welcoming and saying to the LGBTQIA+ community, you’re part of the greater community and you’re welcome here.”

The irony of the seven players pulling out of this game on religious grounds, yet wearing a jersey sponsored by a betting company and at a playing ground (“4 Pines Park”) sponsored by a local beer company has been called out by the public. 

Australia’s first Pasifika professor in social sciences at the University of Sydney, Jioji Ravulo, has been working alongside the NRL for a decade and spoke about the sexual fluidity within Pasifika communities that have been around since before the arrival of missionaries. 

Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Professor Ravulo said, “I also believe Pasifika people need to be proud of our pre-colonial views of queerness and reclaim such views as part of our ability to love our neighbour as ourselves.”

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