Manly Sea Eagles unveil their pride jersey ahead of Thursday's match against the Roosters / Supplied
NRL fans have offered a ringing endorsement of a controversial batch of league jerseys, which will see seven Manly Sea Eagles players refuse to line up in against the Roosters on Thursday.
The club reported last night that the limited edition pride Sea Eagles jerseys - which feature a rainbow stripe, instead of the traditional white piping, had sold out.
Sea Eagles management said on Sunday that all players would wear the pride jersey in Thursday’s match-up but some players have attacked club management saying a social media post was the first they had heard of it.
New Zealanders Josh Aloiai, Toafofoa Sipley and Christian Tuipulotu along with Jason Saab, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau'atu and Tolutau Koula say they won’t play wearing the jerseys, citing religious grounds which condemn homosexual activity.
Coach Des Hasler told his players he supported that decision according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The first rugby league player to come out as openly gay, Sea Eagles legend Ian Roberts, said on Monday he was heartbroken by the player opposition.
"I try to see it from all perspectives but this breaks my heart," Roberts told The Daily Telegraph.
"It's sad and uncomfortable. As an older gay man, this isn't unfamiliar. I did wonder whether there would be any religious pushback. That's why I think the NRL has never had a Pride round.
"I can promise you, every young kid on the northern beaches dealing with their sexuality would have heard about this."
Some social media users cited a perceived contradiction from the players, with the club’s major sponsor being betting agency PointsBet, and its premier partner, a brewing company.
NRL commentator Paul Kent however slammed Sea Eagles’ management for not canvassing the players and foreseeing potential conflict before the announcement.
"To inflict their own political views on the players who may not share that and are now being forced to deal with the consequences of that is a real oversight by the club and it's something they should be embarrassed about," Kent said.
While the jerseys have sold out as of Tuesday morning, seats remain available in all five grandstands and concourse for the Thursday match-up.