Ex-Leeds Rhinos hooker James Segeyaro set for stunning return

Former Leeds Rhinos hooker James Segeyaro is set for a stunning return to first-team action this weekend.

The wily hooker has been playing for the Blacktown Workers – Manly Sea Eagles’ feeder team – since earning a $1,000-a-week deal after returning from his drugs ban.

Now, though, given the fallout within the Manly side following the club’s decision to wear a pride jersey for the upcoming fixture against the Sydney Roosters, Segeyaro has been given a shock chance to resurrect his NRL career.

Sea Eagles’ head coach Des Hasler has been forced to change much of his side after seven players – including the likes of Josh Schuster, Josh Aloiai and Jason Saab – refused to wear the pride shirt this weekend, whilst a number of potential debutants have also left Hasler in the lurch by doing the same.

Segeyaro, however, is set to take his chance with both hands.

“Obviously I’ve been given this opportunity due to circumstances, however, that doesn’t change the fact that I have been working to achieve this chance for several seasons,” Segeyaro told the Daily Telegraph. “It’s been testing, but I never gave up.

“I’m grateful for Des (Hasler’s) faith in me and while I’m obviously looking forward to it, I have a job to focus on and I’m confident of playing that role for the team.”

The seven players that refused to wear the new shirt, were willing to put on the traditional Manly strip. That, however, isn’t possible with the NRL’s rules not allowing players to wear an alternative strip on the same field.

That being said, the club is also standing firm with no intention to withdraw the jersey which includes rainbow colours across the front.

If the Sea Eagles continue their strong stance, they will become the first club in rugby league’s 114-year history to wear a jersey — titled Everyone in League — celebrating diversity and inclusivity in the NRL.

Meanwhile, head coach Des Hasler has thrown his support behind those players refusing to wear the strip.

Sea Eagles legend, Ian Roberts, was the first rugby league player to come out as gay back in 1995, and he backed Manly for releasing the shirt.

However, he is disappointed to say the least by the players’ attitude.

Roberts, in 1995, became the first rugby league player to come out as openly gay, and on Monday threw his support behind Manly’s move.

“I try to see it from all perspectives but this breaks my heart,” Roberts said.

“It’s sad and uncomfortable. As an older gay man, this isn’t unfamiliar. I did wonder whether there would be any religious push back. That’s why I think the NRL have never had a Pride round.”

“I can promise you every young kid on the northern beaches who is dealing with their sexuality would have heard about this.”

It’s a debate that’s likely to continue on as Manly and those seven players refuse to budge on their stance.

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