One year following the public uproar surrounding the refusal of seven Manly players to wear a pride-themed jersey, former player Ian Roberts has voiced his disappointment over the lack of progress made in promoting inclusivity within the NRL. He says that the lack of action from the NRL in these areas is a ‘real kick in the guts’. The players’ refusal, based on religious objection, triggered a notable public reaction and it was a main factor in the team’s less-than-successful season which ended with the dismissal of coach Des Hasler.
As the only openly gay player in NRL history, Roberts feels called to comment on the situation. In his words, ‘I don’t like being the spokesperson on all this, but I guess someone has to say something and say it like it is. I am really disappointed in the lack of progress that has been made in this area by the game.’ Roberts lamented over the return to the status quo, suggesting that the situation may have worsened since the incident. He asserted that the lack of a pride round showed that nothing had changed from the controversy.
Roberts criticises the NRL, stating ‘The game is clearly afraid of offending its religious players – their view counts for more’. He questions the message this sends to sports stars or everyday individuals who are dealing with acceptance struggles.
The former player also discusses the realm of female sports, noting that acceptance seems to be greater on their side. In a statement directed at men still experiencing discrimination for being gay, Roberts says, ‘Don’t let the haters get to you, and live your life.’
On a different note, the Wests Tigers coach-in-waiting, Benji Marshall, and recruitment boss Scott Fulton are expected to have a meeting despite their well-known disputes. Their relationship has improved slightly, however, there is a distinct need for a stronger working relationship to make quicker decisions necessary for the improvement of the club.
For book enthusiasts, Herald sportswriter Andrew Webster has announced his biography on supercoach Wayne Bennett, titled ‘The Wolf You Feed’. The book examines Bennett’s life and career, from his turbulent childhood to his success and fallouts in his career, and is set to be available in bookstores and online from September 12.
The news of Jarome Luai’s six-figure deal withdrawal from electronics company JBL over communication issues has stirred much reaction. However, the young player still holds appeal for companies aiming to tap into the younger market, given his professional approach.
Finally, late news from the Bulldogs includes the signing of Liam Knights, which could have transpired two years sooner, potentially changing the course of two clubs. Also, Bulldogs player Raymond Faitala-Mariner has been allowed to seek other clubs, despite surprise at the move considering the rise of Jacob Preston and a possible return of Viliame Kikau from injury.