The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles players set on boycotting Thursday’s game against the Sydney Roosters over a pride jersey now won’t attend the clash for security reasons.

Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley refused to wear the club’s pride jersey and have withdrawn from the match on religious grounds. 

The players were expected to attend the game to support their teammates.

But according to the The Daily Telegraph, Manly fears their presence could make them targets for crowd violence or anti-social behaviour.

Manly has confirmed several new faces will be playing this Thursday when Manly takes on the Sydney Roosters at Brookvale, including Pio Seci, Alfred Smalley, James Segeyaro, Zac Fulton and James Roumanos.

The announcement comes after Manly coach Des Hasler fronted the media on Tuesday and apologised for the club’s “significant mistake”.

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

“The jersey’s intent was to support the advocacy and human rights pertaining to gender, race, culture, ability and LGBTQ movements.

“Sadly, the execution of what was intended to be an extremely important initiative was poor. There was little consultation or collaboration between key stakeholders, both inside and outside the club.

“Our intent was to be caring and compassionate towards all diverse groups who face inclusion issues daily. However, instead of enhancing tolerance and acceptance, we may have hindered this. This was the opposite of our intent.”

In all honesty, it’s baffling to me that the players had to be consulted in the first place. Can the club not try to improve inclusivity of queer communities of their own volition? Am I missing something?

Hasler specifically apologised to the LGBTQIA+ community.

“We wish to apologise to the LGBTQ community who embrace the rainbow colour for pride and advocacy and human rights issues,” he said.

As well as the players.

“We wish to apologise to our own playing group and staff for any confusion, discomfort and pain that the mistake we have made may have caused them,” he said.

It seems pretty hamfisted that Hasler tried to apologise to both the players refusing to wear the pride jersey and the community that jersey represents in the same presser.

On Monday, The Age reported up to seven players were threatening to pull out of this week’s match because they disagreed with the messaging of the pride jersey — the first time in NRL history that any team would wear inclusive kit.

Per the ABC, Manly players claim the club’s management didn’t consult them about the decision to wear the pride jersey.

Following an emergency meeting on Monday night, the Sydney Morning Herald said sources had confirmed seven players would boycott the match and Hasler told them he supported their choice not to play.

It’s disappointing that what should have been a moment of inclusivity and improved representation for members of the LGBTQIA+ community in sport — particularly a hyper-masculine one like rugby league — has been subverted into a media storm.

Source: Getty Images / Jason McCawley / Stringer