Ok, so your replies helped me to resolving the issue.
So before I manually built for android release, I changed where the resource was pointing to i.e. from …/…/assets/img to assets/img but I did not push the latest changes to Deploy.
So every time I started the app initially, the local resource would be loaded, but behind the scenes, Deploy would update the link from the old commit.
All I needed to do was update my commit to the latest and it worked every time.
Thanks again Sujan!