Manly star Josh Schuster has become the first Sea Eagles player to open up about their refusal to wear the pride jersey, insisting he has no regrets.
Controversy gripped the NRL in Round 20 of last season when seven Manly players were threatening to sit out of their clash with the Sydney Roosters if they were forced to don the 'Everyone in League' strip.
The Sea Eagles were poised to wear jerseys donning rainbow-coloured stripes in support of the LGBTQIA+ community.
However, seven players including Schuster refused to wear the kit citing their religious and cultural beliefs.
None of the seven had previously spoken about the saga, however, the young player was pressed on the matter when speaking on former coach Des Hasler’s sacking.
When asked by Channel Nine whether he had ‘no regrets’, the 21-year-old responded: “Yeah, definitely. Like I said before, my personal beliefs and faith come first.”
The controversy clearly had a detrimental impact on Manly’s season as they went on to lose their remaining games of the 2022 season.
They finished outside the top eight which ultimately led to the sacking of Des Hasler by the club last week.
It was a decision, that despite all the drama of the season, took Schuster aback.
He told Nine: “It actually shocked me a bit.
“He still talks to me here and there just to make sure I'm still training ... but the main focus is he wants me to get ready for pre-season [training].”
Adding: “I think throughout his whole coaching [career] his main aspect was player welfare; he cares about the person.”
Since the rainbow jersey fiasco, there have been reports of friction in the Manly locker room.
Hasler’s sacking only served to fuel such ideas with speculation persisting about the squad morale of the players.
However, Schuster maintains that the team are as close-knit as ever.
He continued: “We are a tight bunch, believe it or not.
“[Despite] everything that's happened this year, we're still close, we still keep in touch.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Hasler is now considering a $1 million lawsuit against the club over the decision to implement the pride jersey without consultation with himself or the football department.
The 61-year-old was set to trigger an automatic contract extension for the 2024 season if the team reached the top six in 2022.
However, the paper reports that he believes the team’s fall in form was directly attributed to the pride jersey controversy, prohibiting him from fulfilling his contractual obligations.
Featured Image Credit: NRL/Supplied.
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