Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler has praised the NRL club’s leadership group for setting up meetings with the seven players who boycotted last week’s game in a bid to understand their decision and ensure it doesn’t lead to any festering tension.
Veteran lock Jake Trbojevic spoke on Wednesday about how he initially struggled to understand why some of his teammates had chosen not to wear the pride jersey but respected the decision after they explained their stance.
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It’s a meeting that should strengthen the playing group ahead of Friday’s massive game against Parramatta, with five of the seven boycotters set to return.
“It shows great initiative. It shows great leadership. They were the only ones who could do it,” Hasler said of the meetings.
“It’s the old expression that you can’t control the noise outside. The players have resolved to just get on with it.
“At this stage, it’s been explored so we should just move on now.”
The Sea Eagles have traditionally played some of their best footy when their backs have been against the wall, but Hasler said it was naive to think that his side would be out to make a statement after two weeks of negative headlines.
“It’s not about that,” he said, unsure of how the fans at 4 Pines Park would treat the returning players.
“We can wax lyrical about that and it’s a great narrative, but it’s just about us winning tomorrow night.”
That game against the Eels shapes as Manly’s most important of the season and one they must win to stay in touch with the top eight.
Last week’s jersey fiasco proved costly on the field, with the loss to the Roosters acting as a four-point swing for the Sea Eagles who are now two competition points behind their rivals.
A loss to the Eels at home on Friday would make their task nearly impossible, but their job has been made a little easier with Parramatta halfback Mitch Moses out for up to a month with a broken finger.
Moses was outstanding in last week’s win over Penrith and has been replaced in the side by a youngster with plenty to prove.
“That’ll be a big loss to them, but young Jake Arthur comes in and it’s not his first rodeo,” Hasler said.
“He’ll have plenty of support around him. They’re strong across the park, they’re big and they’re mobile and they’ve got big competitors in Clint Gutherson and Dylan Brown.
“They’re all important games from here on. The only real sure thing that you can bank on is that you need to win your games.
“These are games that we expect to win.”