Ex-St Helens captain steps into NRL row as players refuse to wear Pride jersey and boycott key match

The special rainbow jerseys designed to promote inclusion will be worn despite a boycott by several key players.

<p>Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Pride shirt was unveiled on their social media channels on Monday. Image: Manly Sea Eagles</p>

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Pride shirt was unveiled on their social media channels on Monday. Image: Manly Sea Eagles

Former England and St Helens captain James Graham has stepped into an NRL row following the decision by seven Manly Sea Eagles players to boycott their fixture against the Sydney Roosters on Thursday night.

Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Josh Aloiai, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley have all refused to wear the rainbow-coloured Pride shirt, designed to support LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport, on religious grounds.

Graham, now a pundit in Sydney, says he understands the players have their own cultural and religious convictions, but believes their decision could divide the squad.

The 36-year-old Maghull-born prop forward said: “For me personally, I think it is an overreaction from the players. It is just a few colours on a jersey. It is not worth missing a game over.”

He added: “You can have your beliefs, but really? Just accept it and crack on.”

Manly coach Des Hasler told a press conference: “The seven players are not wearing the jersey as it conflicts with their cultural and religious beliefs.

“And I am concerned for their mental welfare. Their spirituality is a central part of their well-being. The club has made an error from which it will learn.”