As Manly emerged from the North Eagles debacle, coach Des Hasler and recruitment guru Noel Cleal went searching for a hardened professional who could lead and harden a young inexperienced team so they could go from average to great in the NRL.
In early months of the 2004 season they grabbed test forward and Grand Final winner Ben Kennedy from the Newcastle Knights - BK proved to be the perfect man for the job and he was one of the key factors into turning the Sea Eagles into a premiership force.
BK was born in Casino but had strong family connections on the peninsula. A talented league player he was drafted into the GPS rugby system and attended St Joesphs College where he went onto to play for the Australian School boys rugby side. Upon leaving school he played union for the Manly Marlins and was on the verge of further representative honours when he signed for the Canberra Raiders.
Amazingly the Manly Sea Eagles were one of the first league clubs to spot Kennedy but then CEO Frank Stanton had a look at him down at Manly Oval and put a red mark next to his name in the recruitment book. In hindsight it was a poor decision but fate works in funny ways and BK was to eventually come to the club when the time was right.
He senior league career started in 1996 and he won the Raiders rookie of the year, after four seasons with the Raiders BK had developed into a top class forward. The Newcastle Knights controversially poached him from the Raiders, some claiming he signed before the anti tampering deadline.
His arrival at the Knights turned them into a force in the competition and he took the club to new heights. His ruthless play and determined leadership eventuated in a premiership and his man of match performance in the club's upset victory over Parramatta in the 2001 Grand Final was sadly not rewarded with the Clive Churchill medal.
After signing for the Sea Eagles his mission was to turn the talented young forwards like Watmough, King & Kite into a tough competitive unit that could dominate games and give their outside men the chance to win the games.
Hi passion, toughness and will to win was evident from day 1 and many expected him to be named captain but Hasler opted for the much maligned Michael Monaghan. Despite not having the 'c' next to his name in the program he was the perfect leader and often he let his actions do the talking on the field.
BK was the back bone of the side and the weekend result often depended on how BK went. I have been watching Manly for nearly four decades and apart from Bob Fulton no other player had as much influence on a Manly side as BK did.
Such were his efforts in his two seasons at the club he was awarded a place in the club's greatest team in their 60th year.
In 2005 Manly made their first finals series since the 1990s finishing 8th, the club progressed again the following season making the 2nd week of the finals, BK played his last game for the the Sea Eagles in their loss to the Dragons at the SFS.
Although there was no premiership title during his time at Manly his mere presence turned the tide and his commitment to the team ethos renewed Manly premiership credentials that result in a Grand Final appearance in 2007 and an eventual title in 2008.
It is fair to say that without BK's contribution to the Maroon and White, Manly fans would have never had the pleasure winning their 7th title in 2008.
BK played 42 games for the Sea Eagles out of his career tally of 195 NRL games. He played for the Blues 13 times and 12 international appearances to his name.
Ben Kennedy - tough as nails champion.