History of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

History of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

The history of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles rugby league football club dates back to 1932 when a Manly-Warringah Junior Rugby Football League was founded. In 1947 the New South Wales Rugby Football League included two additional teams, one from Parramatta and a Manly-Warringah District club. The club adopted the nickname Sea Eagles and went on to compete in every season of top-level rugby league until merging with the nearby North Sydney Bears to form the Northern Eagles club at the end of 1999. Although they continued to play under the manly entity as the manly club held the rights to play in the NRL. After three years the joint-venture team was disbanded with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles returning as a sole entity once more to the National Rugby League.



Getting Started

In Australia, before 1908, Rugby Union was the football code of choice and had been for nearly 40 years. Although rugby league football's inaugural top flight competition started in 1908, it was mainly based in the immediate areas in and around the city of Sydney.

Two factors prevented the initial inclusion of a Manly team into the competition. Firstly, with the Manly Rugby Union Club only recently gaining acceptance into the Sydney competition, many involved were not prepared to take a chance on the new code, which had yet to prove itself as a sustainable entity. Add to this a population base barely in the thousands, and well spread out among the many farms in the region, and sustainable support would have been difficult to envisage.

With a strong growth in local population through the 1920s, the Manly-Warringah Junior Rugby Football League was founded 11 February 1932 with six clubs established for the local competition. The formation of this League entitled Manly’s inclusion into the President’s Cup, a junior district competition run by the NSWRL.

Further attempts were made for a Manly club to join the NSWRL top grades in both 1937 and 1944, however both were unsuccessful. The backers of a Manly club were convinced only a President’s Cup premiership would give them an opportunity to successfully apply for the senior competition.

During 1946, two meetings involving the North Sydney club which would seal Manly's future. Their first encounter was played out on 17 June 1946 when the two districts met in the final of the President’s Cup; played in front of 64,527 spectators as the curtain raiser for the First Test against the touring British Lions. Manly maintained an early lead to claim the match, 12-8.

The second meeting was between the senior NSWRL clubs on 4 November 1946, in which the North Sydney club supported the inclusion of Manly into the senior competition, despite knowing that many of its Manly players would no longer be eligible to play for North Sydney due to the district residential rule of the time.

With the Manly club being successful this time, a public meeting on 20 November 1946 saw the formation of the Manly-Warringah District Rugby League Football Club, adoption of Freshwater SLSC maroon and white colours from which Ken Arthurson and other players were members, and the establishment of Brookvale Oval as the home ground.


12 April 1947 saw the Manly club taking on the Western Suburbs club in its first official game in the NSWRFL senior competition, but despite scoring three tries (the first of which came from Keith "Meggsy" Kirkwood) to Wests' one, the Manly side went down 15-13. The lineup for that match was: A 'Bert' Collins, Jim Walsh, C ‘Kelly’ McMahon, Mackie Campbell, Johnny Bliss, Merv Gillmer, Gary Maddrell, Jim Hall, Keith Kirkwood, Max Whitehead (c), Pat Hines, Ern Cannon, Harry Grew. The coach was Harold Johnson.

The club's first win in the top league was a 15-7 victory against fellow newcomers Parramatta, at Brookvale Oval, 31 May 1947. By seasons end, Manly had racked up just four victories from 18 rounds, which was enough to avoid the wooden spoon, with Parramatta winning one less game for the season.

The 1948-1950 period saw the club languish at the bottom of the table, coming ninth, eighth and eighth out of ten, however the club did have Roy Bull selected for an Australian Test team which played against New Zealand in October 1949, thus becoming Manly-Warringah’s first International.

On 25 April 1951, a new attendance record at Brookvale was set at 9,447, with spectators overflowing onto the field for a match between Manly and South Sydney.[1] The 1951 team won 11 games, finishing second at the end of the regular season, and were in their first finals campaign. After accounting for both Wests and St George in the semi-finals, Manly were to met a South Sydney side which were the reigning Premiers and had won the minor premiership by 11 points. The resultant 42-14 victory over Manly still stands as the biggest Grand Final winning score [no it doesn't - Manly's 40-0 win over the Melbourne Storm in 2008 has overtaken it].

1956 saw the first of 11 Premierships for the St George club, resulting in two more runners-up trophies for Manly in both 1957 (31-9) and 1959 (20-0). The 1957 season saw a young Ken Arthurson take the reins as the Manly coach, a position he held until the 1961 season.

From the 1960 to the 1969 seasons, Manly's form ranged from third place finishes in 1961 and 1966, to an eighth placing in 1964.

The combination of the return of Wally O'Connell to the club as coach in 1966, and the development of Ken Arthurson's skill as an administrator professionalized the club. With the groundwork laid and a couple of years of development of the future Immortal Bob Fulton, the 1968 competition saw Manly compete with St George and South Sydney.

At the end of the home and away season, Manly finished second, one point behind reigning Premiers, South Sydney. The Major Semi-Final saw Manly beat Souths, 23-15, but the clubs soon met again in the Grand Final where the Rabbitohs proved too strong and won the decider, 13-9.


The 1970 season ended with Manly losing to the South Sydney Rabittohs 23-12.

By the end of the regular 1971 season, the club had both the best defence and attack record, lost three games and claimed their maiden Minor Premiership over second placed Rabbitohs. However, they did not made the final due to two successive losses.

The Sea Eagles finished as 1972 Minor Premiers and heading into the finals series with 12 wins and 1 draw from the last 13 rounds.

The Major Semi saw Manly taking on Easts and winning 32-8, before meeting again in the decider two weeks later where Manly-Warringah claimed their maiden Premiership, 19-14.

  • 16 September 1972

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: Graham Eadie, Ken Irvine, Ray Branighan, Bob Fulton, Max Brown, Ian Martin, Dennis Ward, Malcolm "Mal" Reilly, Terry Randall, Allan Thomson, John O'Neill, Freddie Jones (c), Bill Hamilton

Coach: Ron Willey

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles - 19 (Jones, Branighan tries; Branighan 6 goals; Fulton field goal) defeated Eastern Suburbs Roosters - 14 (Ballesty, Mullins tries; McKean 4 goals)[2]

The 1973 finals were the first to feature five teams, allowing the Minor Premiers a week off during the first round of finals. The 14-4 win by Manly over Cronulla in the first week of the finals saw the club with a week off before again meeting Cronulla in the Grand Final.

The 1973 Grand Final is often quoted as one of the most brutal games of Rugby League.[citation needed] Fulton's two tries saw the Manly side win 10-7 and claim the Premiership for the second time.

  • 15 September 1973

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: Graham Eadie, Ken Irvine, Ray Branighan, Bob Fulton, Max Brown, Ian Martin, Johnny Mayes, Malcolm "Mal" Reilly, Terry Randall, Peter Peters, John O'Neill, Freddie Jones (c), Bill Hamilton

Replacement: John Bucknall for Mal Reilly, injured

Coach: Ron Willey.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles - 10 (Fulton 2 tries; Eadie 2 goals) defeated Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks - 7 (Bourke try; Rogers 2 goals)

In the 1974 and 1975 seasons the Manly club finished second on the table for both seasons, losing a total of four out the five finals game and failing to qualify for either Grand Final.

Manly held off the 1976 season, Parramatta, to win the Minor Premiership. During their two meetings during the regular season, the Eels proved too strong on both occasions and followed that up with another win, this time in the Major Semi Final. Manly went on to beat Canterbury to set up a rematch against Parramatta in the Grand Final, where Manly won their third Premiership in five years.

  • 18 September 1976

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: Graham Eadie, Tom Mooney, Russel Gartner, Bob Fulton (c), Rod Jackson, Alan Thompson, Gary Stephens, Ian Martin, Phil Lowe, Steve Norton, Terry Randall, Max Krilich, John Harvey

Replacements: Gary Thoroughgood for Ian Martin; Mark Willoughby for Phil Lowe

Coach: Frank Stanton

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles - 13 (Lowe try; Eadie 5 goals) defeated Parramatta Eels - 10 (Porter, Gerard tries; Peard 2 goals)

Manly started the 1977 season with three solid wins, despite the loss of Bob Fulton to the Roosters, however, four losses in a row saw the club lose momentum with only a last round victory against the Balmain Tigers at Leichhardt Oval securing fifth spot from a fast-finishing Cronulla side. However, the Tigers reversed the result in the first week of the finals, to knock the Sea Eagles out of title contention. After the 1977 NSWRFL season Roy Bull was elected the Manly-Warringah club's president, succeeding Bill Cameron who had held the position for the previous 19 years.[3]

Success for the club during the 1970s came to an end with the club scoring a fourth Premiership in another Grand Final against the Cronulla Sharks during the 1978 season. Unlike the three previous titles, the club did not win the Minor Premiership. It also was unique insofar as Manly were required to replay two drawn matches through the finals campaign. Week one of the finals saw Manly beaten by Cronulla 17-12; the boot of Steve Rogers proving the difference with both teams scoring three tries each. The Minor Semi Final against Paramattah ended in a draw: the teams met again three days later where Manly scored a 17-11 victory.

Another three days turnaround saw Manly play and account for the Minor Premiers, Western Suburbs. Like the decider of the previous year, the match was drawn and a replay required three days later. Manly scored a 16-0 victory over the Sharks, claiming their fourth Premiership in seven years.

  • 1978, 19 September (Grand Final Replay)

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: Graham Eadie, Tom Mooney, Stephen Knight, Russel Gartner, Simon Booth, Alan Thompson, Steve Martin, Ian Martin, Terry Randall, Bruce Walker, John Harvey, Max Krilich (c), Ian Thomson

Replacements: Ray Branighan for Simon Booth; Wayne Springall for Ian Martin

Coach: Frank Stanton.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles - 16 (Gartner 2, Eadie tries; Eadie 3 goals; field goal) defeated Cronulla Sharks - 0

After the 1978 Grand Final victory, Manly-Warringah finished seventh in both the 1979 and 1980 seasons.


Club officials lured three players from the Western Suburbs Magpies across to the peninsula. The signings of Kangaroo internationals Les Boyd, John Dorahy and Ray Brown for the 1980 season led to a deep acrimony between the two clubs, quickly developing on the field into the ‘Silvertails’ versus ‘Fibros’; the haves against the have-nots.

The 1981 season saw the club shake off the inconsistency of the previous two years and make the finals, holding off a challenge from Western Suburbs to claim fifth place. Beating Cronulla-Sutherland in the elimination final, the Sea Eagles were not able to reproduce that form and were beaten the following week by eventual Runners-Up, Newtown.

The 1982 premiership saw a tight battle for finals placings which eventually saw Manly take second position and back in the hunt for a title. Manly’s final campaign began strongly with a thrashing of North Sydney, followed by a shutout of the Parramatta team to move into the Grand Final. Parramatta had a strong win against Eastern Suburbs Preliminary Final, setting up another showdown against the Sea Eagles.

Including the Major-Semi final just two weeks earlier, Manly entered the contest having defeated the Eels in their two recent encounters. However a dominant Brett Kenny saw Parramatta take the game and successfully defend their crown, 21-8.

The 1983 season saw Fulton return, this time as the coach, guiding the team to a Minor Premiership by eight points. Manly looked to be well on its way to breaking through for a fifth premiership after exacting revenge for two losses during the season to Parramatta, claiming victory against the Eels in the Major Semi final, 19-10. But, in an almost carbon-copy of the 1982 decider, Parramatta bounced back strongly in their next game before again beating Manly to claim the title, 18-6.

After the disappointment of losing the 1983 Grand Final, the team were unable to make a strong claim for the title during the 1984 season. Just once did Manly enjoy a winning streak of more than two, but still managed to finish in fourth position. After beating Canberra in a mid-week play-off for fifth, South Sydney knocked the Sea Eagles out of the finals in the first weekend with a 22-18 win.

Early in the 1985 season, Manly were challenging for a top two position, but a lack of momentum in the last half of the season saw the club unable to build on this position. At the completion of the regular season, the Sea Eagles still needed to win a mid-week final against Penrith to attempt to claim fifth position, but the boot of Greg Alexander carried the Penrith Panthers to a 10-7 victory and into their first finals campaign.

Although Manly finished in fourth in 1986, the closeness of the competition meant that any of the finals teams were capable of beating the others on their day. Fifth place again had to be decided by a mid-week play-off, this time Balmain beat Norths and progressed to a meeting with Manly for the first week of the finals. The Tigers scored a strong 29-22 win and Manly were knocked out of the finals in the first week, for the second year in a row.

Led by captain Paul Vautin and coached by Manly legend Bob Fulton, the 1987 Sea Eagles dominated the competition and took the Minor Premiership by six points. Meeting second placed Easts in the second week of the finals, the Sea Eagles did enough to get over the Roosters, 10-6, and move into the Grand Final.

Joining Manly in the final Grand Final to be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground was the Canberra Raiders. The Sea Eagles scored a solid victory, 18-8, to secure their fifth title.

  • 27 September 1987

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: Dale Shearer, David Ronson, Darrell Williams, Michael O'Connor, Stuart Davis, Cliff Lyons, Des Hasler, Paul Vautin (c), Noel Cleal, Ron Gibbs, Kevin Ward, Mal Cochrane, Phil Daley

Replacements: Mark Pocock for Noel Cleal; Paul Shaw for head bin (twice for Ron Gibbs)

Coach: Bob Fulton

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles - 18 (O'Connor, Lyons tries; O'Connor 5 goals) defeated Canberra Raiders - 8 (O'Sullivan try; Meninga, Belcher goals)

Less than two weeks later, the premiers travelled to England to face the reigning English champions, Wigan in the 1987 World Club Challenge. In only the second such match since the Eastern Suburbs Roosters mid-season win against St Helens in 1976, Manly lost the match, 8-2.

With the expansion of the NSWRL seeing new teams from Newcastle and Queensland, the first round of the 1988 season saw the reigning premiers taking on a Brisbane Broncos team featuring many of Queensland’s top players. Manly were never in the match and lost to the Brisbane side, 44-10. By the end of the regular season, Manly finished third but were eliminated in the first week, 19-6, by Grand Final bound Balmain.

With Bob Fulton taking on the Australian coaching job, another former Manly favourite was brought in to fill his shoes. International Alan Thompson distinguished himself in the maroon and white over a 263-game career at five-eighth, but his form as a player did not transfer to the coaching role. During the 1989 season the clubs attack stalled and finished twelfth. Thompson was sacked and the club bought in successful Wigan coach, Graham Lowe.


The 1990 and 1991 seasons saw the club return to the finals football, but no premierships. The 1990 side started slow but eventually finished the regular season in fourth and facing Balmain in the first week of the finals, which the Sea Eagles won. However, a tryless effort against the Broncos in the second week saw the club go no further in their campaign.

Finishing second in 1991, Manly succumbed in successive finals matches, losing first to North Sydney then knocked out in the second week by Canberra.

The 1992 season featured only one team in the finals from the previous year. Manly’s recent improvements in attack disappeared and they missed out, finishing eighth.

During the 1993 season, after a previous health scare, Manly coach Graham Lowe eventually succumbed to a serious health issue which forced him from his coaching role. This saw the return of Bob Fulton to the coaching role. In one of the closest finishes to the top of the table, only two points separated first and fifth, with Manly finishing in fourth position. Manly’s first match in the finals was against fifth-placed Brisbane and they were again outclassed by the reigning premiers and were eliminated on the first weekend of finals.

Over the course of the 1994 season, the club displayed a further improvement in their attacking skills, including the club record 61-0 victory over 1993 grand finalists, St George. Finishing fourth, the Sea Eagles again met the fifth placed Broncos in the first week of finals, but were unable to reverse the result of 1993 and were eliminated from the finals series, 16-4.

Against the backdrop of Super League and resultant Super League War throughout the 1995 season, Manly dominated the season losing only two matches to finish as minor premiers. They won their first 15 matches in a row, a club record, and missed out on the highest amount of points scored by the club by just three.

In 1995, Manly's star representative forward Ian Roberts became the first high-profile Australian sports person and first rugby footballer in the world to come out to the public as gay.[4]

With the increase of teams from 16 to 20, a new finals format was introduced and consisted of the top eight sides at the end of the regular season. In the first week of the finals, Manly beat Cronulla before a two week break and another victory, this time against the Newcastle Knights. Manly were to face the finals series surprise packet, Sydney Bulldogs (Canterbury), which despite finishing the season in sixth place, had already beaten favourites Brisbane and Canberra in the finals. Despite being clear favourites to hold off the Bulldogs challenge, Manly struggled to match the intensity of their rivals and lost, 17-4

Over the course of the 1996 season Manly, on the back of its defence which conceded less than 9-points per game, produced one of its most dominant displays since joining the competition in 1947 to claim its eighth Minor Premiership. A tight win against the Sydney City Roosters and a shutout of Cronulla saw the club meeting St George in the Grand Final.

Manly won their sixth title with a comfortable 20-8 victory, but it wasn’t without controversy, with a try just before halftime award on the back of the referee’s decision to allow play-on after an apparent tackle put the Dragons' defence on the back foot.

  • 29 September 1996

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: Matthew Ridge, Danny Moore, Craig Innes, Terry Hill, John Hopoate, Nik Kosef, Geoff Toovey(c), David Gillespie, Jim Serdaris, Mark Carroll, Steve Menzies, Daniel Gartner, Owen Cunningham.

Interchange: Cliff Lyons, Neil Tierney, Craig Hancock, Des Hasler

Coach: Bob Fulton.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles - 20 (Innes, Menzies, Moore tries; Ridge 3, Innes goals) defeated St George Dragons - 8 (Zisti try; Bartrim 2 goals)

Despite the loss of a couple of players to Super League, the club still held the nucleus of the squad together for a tilt at back-to-back titles in the split 1997 season competition. By the end of the regular season, Manly finished on top of the table and earned a break from the first round of finals in the seven-team format.

The Sea Eagles accounted for the Knights in the second week of the finals, before scoring a tight win against the Roosters to qualify for the Grand Final. Manly were again clear favourites and for the first hour, they had the premiership in their grasp, holding on to a 10-point lead. Two tries to Newcastle fullback, Robbie O'Davis, soon had the clubs tied at 16-all with full time looming. Only seconds from seeing the game enter into extra-time, Newcastle halfback, Andrew Johns, wrong footed the defence to send his winger, Darren Albert over the try line.

The start of the 1998 season saw a much anticipated match up between the Super League champions Brisbane and the ARL high flyers, Manly. The Sea Eagles went down 22-6 and an inconsistent season saw the club rely on a late winning streak of six matches to finish out the regular season and limp into the finals in tenth place. Facing Canberra in the first week of the finals, Manly were convincingly beaten 17-4; the last time the club would play finals football until 2005.

From one of the richer clubs in the League, Manly were by now struggling to keep up with player payments and were unable to entice players to the club. Much talk was made about a possible joint venture between local rivals Manly and Norths with both teams were in need of the $10M on offer. With these issues in the background, Manly turned up to the regular season seven rounds late and soon Bob Fulton quit his head coach position due to his wife’s health concerns. Peter Sharp took over the reins and managed to win his first three games, a record result for a caretaker coach in the League.

By halfway through the season, it was obvious that the club would be missing their first finals campaign since 1992 and when they finished thirteenth, it was their lowest relative placing since 1989. But unlike previous eras when the club could look to purchase key players, there was simply no money left.

A consolidation of the competition meant that a criterion was imposed and those not making the cut would not be involved in the 2000 season. The NRL imposed a time limit on the acceptance of a merger offer, or clubs could try their luck through the criteria. Both Manly and Norths administrators were not keen on approaching a merger, but with Manly’s financial problems and North Sydney effectively insolvent due to disastrous year when a planned move to the Central Coast was delayed, both sides met to talk of a joint venture. Although the criteria result was in the positive for the Manly club, financial realities meant that there was not much success likely in the future. Due to their insolvency, the North Sydney club were not even considered for the criteria.

In late 1999, the clubs agreed to a joint venture and the Northern Eagles were born.


Emerging from the failed merger through 2002, Manly were still on shaky ground both on and off the field. The reversion of the NRL licence to Manly meant that contracts with the Northern Eagles were now void. Waiting on further payments, many players left and the club soon developed a high turnover of journeyman and fringe first graders which saw a further lack of stability both on and off the field. With no major sponsor and little public interest with either spectators or through merchandise, the clubs finances were so bad that the football club was only days from closing its doors midway through the 2002 season. In June, initial efforts by the Penn family and then a multi-million dollar deal with local developer, Max Delmege, led to the future privatisation of the club and financial security.

Results on the field during 2003 season were generally poor, with the club regularly conceding 50-plus score lines, even at Brookvale Oval. By the end of the regular season the club finished 14th; just one position above wooden-spooners, South Sydney.

Sydney Roosters in action against the Manly Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval in June 2008

The club made no strong moves in the player market ahead of the 2004 season, but there was one significant change to the roster with Peter Sharp axed and his assistant coach, Des Hasler, taking over the head coach role. Manly won just two more games than 2003 to finish thirteenth, but this slight improvement on the table was tempered by the club enduring their worst loss up to that time, going down 72-12 to the Penrith Panthers in Round 22. As if to highlight the inconsistencies of the team, the Sea Eagles produced their best result for the season with a 48-10 win against Newcastle the following week; the highest turn-around in NSWRL/ARL/NRL history.

The purchase of representative players Ben Kennedy and Brent Kite, ahead of the 2005 season were the clubs first significant signings since the mid-90’s and early success on the field was reflected by the clubs place at the top of the table mid-way through the season. But contract issues with captain Michael Monaghan coincided with a drop in form, including a record loss of the club against Cronulla, 68-6. Winning their final round game, Manly secured eighth spot, but were quickly dispatched from the finals in the first week with a 46-22 loss to Parramatta.

The club further boosted its roster for the 2006, with the signings of Orford and centre Steve Bell from Melbourne. The club overcome a slow start to finish the regular season fifth and a match against the Newcastle Knights in the first week of finals. Despite an early lead, the Sea Eagles were run down in a physical encounter, eventually losing 25-18. The following week, Manly struggled for any impact against the St.George-Illawarra Dragons, losing 28-0 to finish their tilt at the premiership.

The 2007 NRL season saw the club maintain a stable playing roster for the first time since the success of the mid 1990s and on the back of a strong defensive platform, finished the regular season second place behind the Melbourne Storm. With their first top four finish in the NRL, the club hosted their first ever final at Brookvale Oval, against South Sydney Rabbitohs which resulted in an easy 30-6 victory and a week off. In the qualifying final against North Queensland Cowboys, a dominant second half saw the team win 28-6 and earn a place in the Grand Final against minor premiers Melbourne Storm. After a physical opening, Manly soon ran out of steam and were well beaten 8-34.

In mapping out Manly's future in 2003, Des Hasler and his coaching staff believed that the successful implementation of a 5-year plan would set the club up for a premiership for the 2008 season. In making the 2007 decider, many within the club stated that it was a year earlier than expected, but after the horror loss, they turned their eyes to the 2008 as the premiership year.

The season started off rocky with the club dropping their first two games, prompting many commentators to question the clubs ability to backup, particularly with the loss of Michael Monaghan to the ESL. Slowly, the club returned to form and by mid-season were again in a race for the minor premiership. It was not until the final game of the NRL season when the minor premiership was decided, with Melbourne requiring a 26-point win to claim it from Manly, on for-and-against. They easily did this, relegating Manly to second with Cronulla coming third on the same number of points but a significantly lower for-and against record.

In the build-up to the first week of the finals, halfback Matt Orford won the Dally M Medal, beating out Melbourne Storm stars Billy Slater and Cameron Smith. On the back of this recognition, Orford led Manly to a comprehensive 38-6 victory over the St. George Illawarra Dragons in the Qualifying Final at Brookvale Oval, earning the side a two week rest and a home Preliminary Final at the Sydney Football Stadium. Another strong victory, this time a 32-6 win over the New Zealand Warriors, ensured a rematch of the 2007 NRL Grand Final against the Melbourne Storm.

On the back of strong results and the turmoil which played around the Melbourne club during the finals series, including the loss of captain Cameron Smith (suspended) and Ryan Hoffman (injury), Manly entered the decider as slight favourites. The first half featured a disciplined performance by Manly, with Melbourne finding themselves on the wrong end of both field position and possession, and unable to apply any significant pressure. Manly led 8-0 at the break, but with the groundwork done in the first half, went on a six try, second half scoring spree to run out winners 40-0. Highlights of the result were a hat-trick of tries to winger Michael Robertson and a try each to Steve Menzies and Steve Bell in their final game for the Manly club.

  • 2008, 6 October

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Steve Bell, Steve Matai, David Williams, Jamie Lyon, Matt Orford ©, Brent Kite, Matt Ballin, Josh Perry, Anthony Watmough, Glenn Hall, Glenn Stewart.

Interchange: Heath L'Estrange, Mark Bryant, Jason King, Steve Menzies.

Coach: Des Hasler.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles - 40 (Robertson 3, Ballin, Kite, Williams, Menzies, Bell tries; Matai 2, Lyon 2 goals)
Melbourne Storm - 0

They then earned bragging rights as the best team of the year when they defeated Leeds in the World Club Challenge.

Crest & Colours

Upon entering the NSWRL, the Manly club took on the colours of maroon and white. These were adopted from the colours of the President's Cup side which appears to have utilised the colours of the local Freshwater Surf Lifesaving Club, established in 1908.

The club originally had played in a maroon jersey with a large white 'V' on the front. The club was one of the first to feature a crest or emblem, with an MW on a crest appearing in the early 1950s. Far from the flashy emblems worn today, the Manly ‘Sea Eagle’ which appeared in the mid 1950’s was often confused for a seagull by many, including the media. As there were no official nicknames for clubs at the time, more an adopted ‘mascot’, it was not considered an issue.

Various changes to the jersey were introduced at irregular intervals. As well as the classic 'V' design, the club has broken up the maroon jersey with hoops, bars, large eagles, player numbers, stripes, double stripes, top and bottoms, collars, no collars, reversed colours and even the use of blue.

During the 2007 pre-season, the club introduced a limited number of green jerseys for a trial match against the Melbourne Storm.


The Manly Sea Eagles have developed some rivalries since 1947. Some of them include:

  • North Sydney - The first, and most obvious, was the local derby's between North Sydney. As well as taking many of North's playing stock due to the residential rule imposed at the time, Manly had bought further stars from the North Sydney club including Ken Irvine, Cliff Lyons and Martin Bella. Even the fact that North Sydney are not longer competing in the top league, has fueled this rivalry, with many Bears supporters believing that Manly systematically pushed the North Sydney element out of the Northern Eagles joint-venture.
  • Parramatta Eels - Another rivalry was with fellow debutants from 1947, Parramatta. Not much was made of their clashes until the mid 70's, and in particular the 1976 Grand Final in which Manly denied the Parramatta club a maiden premiership. Further clashes through to the mid 80's cemented a fierce rivalry between many of the clubs supporters.
  • South Sydney Rabbitohs - There was a small rivalry between these two clubs from 1947 to 1971, as along with the St. George Dragons, they were the powerhouses of the time and they played each other in the 1951, 1968 and 1970 Grand Finals. From 1972, the rivalry became bigger, as due to the abolishment of the rule where players could not freely negotiate with other clubs, the Sea Eagles signed many of South Sydney's stars, including Ray Branighan and John O'Neill, and more recently Terry Hill and Mark Carroll.
  • Western Suburbs Magpies - Also during this time, the clashes between Western Suburbs Magpies and Manly were billed as a battle between the "Silvertails" and the "Fibros". This distinction between perceived classes of people fuelled many tough matches between the clubs, particularly after Manly would secure top players from the Magpies such as John Dorahy, Les Boyd, David Gillespie. The Silvertails and Fibros monikers first appeared in stories written by reporter Chris Masters, in the late 70's. It should be noted that Chris was the brother of the then Wests coach, Roy Masters.
  • Newcastle Knights - Since the mid-90's, Manly has also built a rivalry with the Newcastle Knights club. In many ways this mirrors the Manly/Wests clashes where class distinction is used to fuel the perceived underdogs, in this case the working class city of Newcastle. In 1997, both Manly and Newcastle fought out the decider, with Newcastle winning 22-16. Recently, in the 2007 August 10 match to commemorate the 1997 grand final Manly took revenge, thumping the knights 50-16.
  • Melbourne Storm - Manly have recently built up a rivalry with the Melbourne Storm club. Over the last few years they have had very close games, they have been the top two teams in the premiership, and they have played each other in the 2007 and 2008 NRL Grand Finals.


Home games are played at Brookvale Oval, which has a capacity of 23,000.

Upon entry into the top league, Manly were denied the use of Manly Oval by the pro-Rugby Union council of the time. This led to the acquition of the Brookvale Showground as a home ground, supported by the Warringah Council.

Most development on the site had occurred between 1965 and 1980, with the latest addition, the Ken Arthurson Stand, erected in the early 90's.

There is much conjecture on what the future development of the ground will include. As one of the few grounds to still have a substantial grassed hill area, many supporters believe that future plans must retain this unique feature.

The largest attendance for a Rugby League match at Brookvale Oval was 27,655 during the final round clash of the 1986 season, between Manly and Parramatta. Highest average crowd for a season was 15,484 over 11 games, in the 2006 season.

In total, Brookvale Oval has seen over five and half million spectators since 1947.

Super League

Throughout the mid-90's, rumours of a separate League developed into a major split of the code in Australia. With News Ltd's backing, the Brisbane Broncos and Canberra Raiders pushed hard for better input to the game, feeling that the Sydney-centric ARL was not meeting their needs. Despite all the rhetoric of better player conditions, the resultant Super League developed into a push by Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd to develop a competition that would be used as the flagship of his fledging Pay TV sports channel, Fox Sports.

The club remained solid with the ARL with only a handful of players, including Matthew Ridge, Ian Roberts and Owen Cunningham, committing to Super League.

The support for the ARL by the club during the Super League war was not rewarded during the reconciliation of the warring factions before the 1998 NRL season. Falling into financial difficulties, the club agreed to form a joint venture arrangement with the insolvent North Sydney Bears for the 2000 competition.

Northern Eagles - 2000-2002

Unlike the successful St. George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers merger of 1999, restrictions imposed on the clubs meant that half of the combined squad had to be released prior to kick-off as the Northern Eagles, on 5 February 2000.

Despite a first up win against the Newcastle Knights, a lack of consistent on-field success and continuing financial problems saw the joint venture gradually suffer with a lack of support from the Central Coast supporters, who felt the team forced onto them, and the Manly faithful who disappeared from Brookvale Oval.

Although officially dissolved in August 2001, the club continued to play out of both Brookvale and Graeme Park (Central Coast Stadium) until the lead up to the Round 16 clash with Melbourne in 2002. Originally scheduled for Graeme Park, fierce opposition by Central Coast locals and some media identities forced the club to cease playing in Gosford.

With the club returning to Brookvale Oval full time they were by now the Northern Eagles in name only. In 2003 they re-entered the league as the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.


Penn Offer

With the club still suffering with poor finances, and despite the cash injection of $10,000,000 granted to the Northern Eagles entity, a change in direction was needed.

In November 2003, Scott Penn offered the Football Club $5,000,000 for a half-share of the Sea Eagles, with the partnership with the Football Club anticipated to contribute $10,000,000 over four years. The deal required 75 percent support by the football club members, and was tabled at the Annual General meeting on 18 December 2003.[5] Despite football and leagues club board support, the necessary numbers did not favour privatisation and the motion was defeated.

Max Delmege

After initially saving the club from closure in early 2004, with an injection of much needed money in the form of sponsorship, Max Delmege received football club members support for his privatisation deal on 3 June 2004. The deal was passed with 93% support (162-10 in favour) and saw Delmege pay $3.5 million for a 65.5 per cent share, not including ongoing sponsorship of $1,000,000 per year.

Initial share holdings saw Delmege hold 3.5mil, Manly Football Club with 2mil, and Penn Sports take 100,000. An additional 4.4mil shares were to be made available to members, supporters and investors. The new board would feature six directors with two from the Football Club, two from the Leagues Club and two appointed from Delmege, with an independent chairman appointed by the six directors.[6]

Effectively, the members voted for the approval of Special Resolutions to allow for the privatisation of the Football Club to proceed. The club was now Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Limited. This entity holds the NRL Licence and manages the clubs employees from the players right through to the front office, organisation of sponsorships and merchandise, provides hospitality and prepares for games played out of Brookvale Oval. It is also responsible for running the lower grades in the NSWRL competitions.

"I'm very passionate about this club and want to see it get back to where it was, a very successful rugby league team." Max Delmege, June 2004.

Penn Buys In

In January 2006, the new Manly-Warringah Board unanimously approve Penn Sport to purchase the majority of the outstanding shares in the club. This reshuffle saw both Delmege and Penn Sports each own just under 40% of the club, with the remainder held by the Manly Football Club. The intention of both majority owners was to see the Football Club further improve their finances, with the aim of the Football Club eventually buying back the privately held shares.[7]

The new board grew to nine, with the addition of two directors appointed by Penn Sports.

"We’re fortunate to have two partners who are willing to invest in the long term future of Manly and are absolutely, passionately committed to its success. The loyalty of Max Delmege to the club speaks for itself and the Penn family are life long fans and passionate supporters of the Sea Eagles. Penn Sport also has a depth of experience in sponsorship and sports management and will add value to the club and be of enormous advantage in moving the club forward.” Paul Cummings, MWSE Board CEO.

Until September 2006, the Manly-Warringah Football Club had bought back 150,000 additional shares from MWSE Limited. Monies generated by Football Club come from memberships and other fund raising activities. Memberships to the MWSE Limited supporters club (Screaming Eagles) do not provide the Football Club with further monies.

A restructure of the MWSE Limited Board saw the Manly Leagues Club lose one director, and Scott Penn resume the Chairman duties.

Current Structure

As of December 2008, there are three current shareholders in "Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Limited" which are the Manly-Warringah Football Club Ltd (16.97%), Delmege (Surfside) (41.515%) and Penn Sport Pty Ltd (41.515%).[8]

The Manly-Warringah Rugby League Football Club Limited has no shareholders. This is the membership based company which Football Club members and Life Members belong to and owns 16.97% of the shares, and one Preference Share, in Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Limited.

Importantly, this preference share gives the members control of the Manly Sea Eagles name, colours and emblem as well as control over the home ground location.

The third entity is the Manly Warringah Rugby Leagues Club which operates the Manly-Warringah Leagues Club based in Brookvale and is independent of the Football Club operations. The Leagues Club provides support for the Manly-Warringah District Junior Rugby League.

Boardroom Fighting

In the week leading up to the 2008 Grand Final, the MWSE CEO Grant Mayer, used the publicity to press for further sponsorship opportunities, including a likely replacement of major sponsor Delmege. This action appears to be the catalyst for the subsequent long-running board room fracture, with the Board split on many 'front office' issues including the extension of contracts for coach Des Hasler, media manager Peter Peters and Board CEO Grant Mayer, infighting played out through the media by both factions, and a deal to purchase the Leagues Club jointly by the Penns and Delmege falling through.

Despite many attempts to find compromise, Grant Mayer eventually announced his standing down from his position from mid-July 2009, three months before the end of his contract. Although the board required 75% support for any motion, Mayer stated that the situation had become unworkable and would leave.[9] In further efforts for peace, Max Delmege, Rick Penn and Phil Dean (Football Club) all stood down from the MWSE Board, to be replaced Jack Elsegood, Kerry Chrysiliou and Melinda Gainsford-Taylor.[10][11][12]

Statistics and Records

Premierships and Titles

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Premiership Titles 1972, 1973, 1976, 1978, 1987, 1996, 2008, 2011 (8)
Premiership Runners-Up 1951, 1957, 1959, 1968, 1970, 1982, 1983, 1995, 1997, 2007 (10)
Minor Premiership Titles 1971, 1972, 1973, 1976, 1983, 1987, 1995, 1996, 1997 (9)
Pre-Season Cup 1980
Sevens Tournaments 1990, 1994, 1995 (3)
Reserve Grade Titles 1954, 1960, 1969, 1973, 1988 (5)
Jersey Flegg Cup Titles 1961, 1974, 1987 (3)
Third Grade Titles 1952 (1)
Presidents Cup 1946, 1970 (2)
KG Cup 1982, 1983 (2)
S.G. Ball Cup Nil
Harold Matthews Cup Nil
Club Championships 1972, 1983, 1987, 1988 (4)
First Grade Wooden Spoons Nil

Player Records

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Most 1st Grade Games Steve Menzies - 349 (includes 69 for Northern Eagles)
Cliff Lyons - 309
Most Points - Career Graham Eadie - 1917 (71 Tries, 847 Goals, 3 Field Goals)
Bob Batty - 1154 (40 Tries, 502 Goals, 15 Field Goals)
Most Tries - Career Steve Menzies - 180 (includes 29 for Northern Eagles)
Bob Fulton - 105
Most Points - Season Matthew Ridge - 257 (1995)
Most Tries (Back) - Season Phil Blake - 27 (1983)
Most Tries (Forward) - Season Steve Menzies - 22 (1995)

Club Records

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Effective 4 July 2009
Biggest Win 70-7 vs Penrith (1973)
61-0 vs St George (1994)
Biggest Loss 6-68 vs Cronulla (2005)
12-72 vs Penrith (2004)
Consecutive Wins 15 - (1995)
12 - (1997)
Consecutive Losses 8 - (1950 / 1998-99)
Best Winning Percentage (10+ Games) Gold Coast Chargers - Played 17 / Won 14 (85%)
Illawarra - Played 27 / Won 19 (74%)
Worst Winning Percentage (10+ Games) St. George Illawarra Dragons - Played 14 / Won 4 (28%)
Melbourne Storm - Played 17 / Won 7 (41%)
Clubs (Most Wins Against) Parramatta - 76
Eastern Suburbs - 75
Clubs (Most Losses To) South Sydney - 56
St George - 55
Brookvale Oval Record Played 573 - (W) 401 / (L) 158 / (D) 14

Honours and awards

Media and Association Awards

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Rugby League Immortal Bob Fulton (1985 – Original Inductee)
ARL Hall of Fame Ken Irvine and Bob Fulton
Rothmans Medal Graham Eadie (1974) and Mal Cochrane (1986)
Dally M Awards
Player of the Year Cliff Lyons (1990 and 1994), Matt Orford (2008)
Silver Dally M Ian Roberts (1993) and Cliff Lyons (1995)
Best Fullback Matthew Ridge (1995)
Best Center Jamie Lyon (2011)
Best Five-Eight Cliff Lyons (1994)
Best Halfback Matt Orford (2008)
Best Lock Forward Ben Kennedy (2005 and 2006)
Best Second Rower Steve Menzies (1994 and 1995), Anthony Watmough (2007 and 2009), Glenn Stewart (2008)
Best Hooker Jim Serdaris (1996)
Best Prop Forward Ian Roberts (1993 and 1994)
Top Try-Scorer Steve Menzies (1995), Brett Stewart (2008)
Top Points Scorer Matthew Ridge (1995)
Rookie of the Year Phil Blake (1992), Jack Elsegood (1993), Steve Menzies (1994), Daly Cherry-Evans (2011)
Captain of the Year Ben Kennedy (2006)
Clive Churchill Medal Cliff Lyons (1987), Geoff Toovey (1996) and Brent Kite (2008)
RLW Players of the Year John Mayes (1973), Bob Fulton (1975), Phil Sigsworth (1983) and Cliff Lyons (1994)
Norwich Rising Star – Rookie of the Year Jack Elsegood (1993) and John Hopoate (1995)
Rugby League Players Association
Player of the Year Ben Kennedy (2006)
Rookie of the Year David Williams (2008)
Best Country Player Brent Kite (2006)
Clubman of the Year Jason King (2008)
Rugby League International Federation
Coach of the Year Des Hasler (2008)
New Zealand Player of the Year Darrell Williams (1989)
NSW Player of the Year Roy Bull (1954) and Bob Fulton (1972 and 1973)
Sun Herald Best and Fairest Rex Mossop (1958) and Dennis Ward (1968)
Ken Stephen Memorial Award Ian Roberts (1994) and Michael Monaghan (2006)

Club honours

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Clubman of the Year Owen Cunningham (1994), Cliff Lyons (1995), Des Hasler (1996), Geoff Toovey (1997), Craig Hancock (1998), Steve Menzies (1999 and 2002), Warwick Bulmer (non-player)(2000), Chad Randall (2003), Albert Torrens (2004), Luke Williamson (2005), Chris Hicks (2006), Michael Monaghan (2007), Mark Bryant (2008), Greg Alexander (non-player/runner) (2009).
Best and Fairest Steve Menzies (2002), Chris Hicks (2004), Ben Kennedy (2005 and 2006), Glenn Stewart (2007 and 2008), Jason King (2009).
Players’ Player John Hopoate (2002), Ben Kennedy (2005), Brent Kite (2006), Brett Stewart (2007), Brent Kite (2008), George Rose (2009).
Rookie of the Year Jason King (2002), Steve Matai (2005), Travis Burns (2006), Michael Bani (2007), David Williams (2008), Kieran Foran (2009).
Members Best and Fairest Ben Kennedy (2005 and 2006), Anthony Watmough & Brett Stewart (2007), Matt Orford (2008), Anthony Watmough (2009).
U20s Players Player Kieran Foran (2008), Darcy Lussick (2009).
U20s Best and Fairest Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (2008), Jamie Buhrer (2009).

Centenary Honours

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Team Of The Century Ken Irvine (Wing), Bob Fulton (Reserve)
100 Greatest Players Kerry Boustead, Roy Bull, Graham Eadie, Bob Fulton, Ken Irvine, John O'Neill
NSWRL Team Of The Century Ken Irvine (Wing), Bob Fulton (5/8), Roy Bull (Reserve)
Indigenous Team Of The Century Dale Shearer (Wing), Cliff Lyons (Lock)
Secondary Schools Centenary Team Steve Menzies (2nd Row), Les Boyd (Front Row)
Men Of League - Centenary Of Club Greats Bob Fulton, Cliff Lyons, Steve Menzies, Malcolm "Mal" Reilly and Graham Eadie

Representative Players

Below are the players to play representative football whilst in Manly colours. Notable Internationals to play for Manly, but not represent from the club, include New Zealanders Jock Butterfield, Trevor Kilkelly, Adrian Shelford and Tasesa Lavea, and Great British players Malcolm "Mal" Reilly, Phil Lowe, Kevin Ward and Andy Goodway.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Australian Test Players 67Martin Bella, Johnny Bliss, Kerry Boustead, Les Boyd, Bill Bradstreet, Dave Brown, Ray Brown, Roy Bull, Peter Burke, Mark Carroll, Noel Cleal, Chris Close, Phil Daley, Bill Delamere, Graham Eadie, Bob Fulton, Daniel Gartner, Russel Gartner, Geoff Gerard, Johnny Gibbs, David Gillespie, Bill Hamilton, Les Hanigan, Des Hasler, Terry Hill, John Hopoate, Fred Jones, Ben Kennedy, Brent Kite, Nik Kosef, Max Krilich, Jack Lumsden, Jamie Lyon, Cliff Lyons, John McDonald, Paul McCabe, Steve Martin, Steve Menzies, Danny Moore, John Morgan, Rex Mossop, Wally O'Connell, Michael O'Connor, John O'Neill, Josh Perry, Terry Randall, John Ribot, Ray Ritchie, Ian Roberts, Kevin Schubert, Dale Shearer, Jack Sinclair, Frank Stanton, Brett Stewart, Glenn Stewart, Alan Thompson, Ian Thomson, Geoff Toovey, Paul Vautin, Mick Veivers, Bruce Walker, Dennis Ward, Anthony Watmough, David Williams, Gordon Willoughby and Nick Yakich.
Australian Captains 2Max Krilich and Geoff Toovey
New Zealand Test Players 8Darrell Williams, Kevin Iro, Tony Iro, Matthew Ridge, Gene Ngamu, Steve Matai, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Kieran Foran.
Other Nations Test Players 2Nick Bradley-Qalilawa (Fiji), Craig Innes (Rest of the World) and Michael Robertson (Scotland).
State Of Origin (NSW) 31Les Boyd, Ray Brown, Mark Carroll, Noel Cleal, Phil Daley, Graham Eadie, Geoff Gerard, David Gillespie, Craig Hancock, Des Hasler, Terry Hill, John Hopoate, Ben Kennedy, Brent Kite, Nik Kosef, Max Krilich, Jamie Lyon, Cliff Lyons, Steve Martin, Steve Menzies, Michael O'Connor, Josh Perry, Ian Roberts, Jim Serdaris, Phil Sigsworth, Brett Stewart, Glenn Stewart, Alan Thompson, Geoff Toovey, Anthony Watmough and David Williams.
State Of Origin (QLD) 13Steve Bell, Martin Bella, Kerry Boustead, Dave Brown, Chris Close, Owen Cunningham, Paul McCabe, Danny Moore, John Ribot, Dale Shearer, Neil Tierney, Paul Vautin and Bruce Walker.

Below are Manly players that have previously represented Australia at the schoolboys level. Players in bold went on to make their first grade debut for Manly-Warringah.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Australian Schoolboys 15Les Boyd, Mark Bryant, Mal Cochrane, Luke Dorn, Jack Elsegood, Solomon Haumono, Daniel Heckenberg, Brent Kite, Heath L'Estrange, Jamie Lyon, Steve Menzies, Jamie Olejnik, Brendan Reeves, David Ronson, Ben Walker.

See also


  • [1] Rugby League History; Sean Fagan
  1. ^ Goodman, Tom (1951-04-26). "Manly disputes penalty try by Graves". The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia): pp. 8. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=qfgQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=EpMDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7073,7804476. Retrieved 2010-04-22. [dead link]
  2. ^ Clarkson, Alan (17 September 1972). "Manly - deserved winners". The Sun-Herald (Australia): pp. 72. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=DaApAAAAIBAJ&sjid=eOUDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5441,7161490. Retrieved 19 September 2010. 
  3. ^ "Manly gets new president". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 December 1977. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Q4ARAAAAIBAJ&sjid=-eYDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2684,2722727. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  4. ^ Peter, O'Shea. "Out of the field". The Advocate. Here Publishing. http://books.google.com/books?id=2WQEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA54#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 10 October 2011. 
  5. ^ Sydney Morning Herald, 22 November 2003 - http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/11/21/1069027327726.html
  6. ^ Daily Telegraph, Dean Richie, 4 June 2004
  7. ^ MWSE News Release, 18 January 2006. http://www.pennsport.com.au/news.html
  8. ^ Family@MWSE - http://www.mwse.com.au/default.aspx?s=family
  9. ^ I Was Driven Out: Grant Mayer - Daily Telegraph, 18 June 2009 - http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/sport/nrl/story/0,26799,25652036-5012652,00.html
  10. ^ Max Delmege To Stand Down - Daily Telegraph, 24 June 2009 - http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/sport/nrl/story/0,27074,25681682-5016544,00.html
  11. ^ Woman's Counsel The Answer To Manly - The Australian, 22 June 2009 - http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25668206-5012431,00.html
  12. ^ Eagles Appoint An Angel To Their Board - Daily Telegraph, 27 June 2009 - http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,25700369-5016360,00.html
  • Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players, 1999; Alan Whiticker and Glen Hudson
  • ABC of Rugby League, 1995; Malcolm Andrews
  • [2] Rugby League Tables and Statistics; Paul Jeffs

Further reading

External links

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