Manly Sea Eagles Sean Fagan of RL1908.com Part 2 / Part 1 1957 - present Sporting new fully maroon jerseys emblazoned with a huge white sea eagle across the chest, Manly returned to the semi-finals in 1957. The Manly Sea Eagles side was coached by 27 year-old Ken Arthurson who had been forced into early player retirement by injury. Arthurson's team boasted some great and experienced players including Roy Bull, George Hunter, Rex Mossop, Ray Ritchie, Ron Willey, George Hugo and Peter Burke. The side reached the qualifying Final and the Sea Eagles fought back dramatically from an 11-2 deficit against South Sydney at half-time, to record a win by 15-11 and a place in the Grand Final against St. George. Manly held the Dragons to 4-all nearing the break, before an against the run of play intercept from a wayward pass saw Tom Ryan sprint away to score in the corner. After Harry Bath converted the try St. George led at half-time by 9-4, but the Sea Eagles appeared to be deflated by the jolt. The second half was one to forget for Manly as they eventually lost 31-9. The Arthurson coaching era saw Manly consistently make the semi-finals over the following seasons until at the end of the 1961 season he stood down to embark on his celebrated administrative career. For most of the 1960s the Manly Sea Eagles performed credibly and finished mid-table, although not reaching the semi-finals again until 1966 when Wally O'Connell returned again as coach. The performance of the 1966 team and the experience they gained signifies the beginnings of Manly's emergence as a powerhouse team. O'Connell's arrival was timely as it coincided with Arthurson's signing of 17 year old Bob Fulton from Wollongong. The wise head of O'Connell was invaluable in refining and developing the prodigious talent that Fulton undoubtedly was. The side also included Frank Stanton, Bob Batty, Billy Bradstreet, John Morgan and youngsters Fred Jones and Bill Hamilton. Manly defeated Newtown to again reach a qualifying Final, this time against Balmain. Despite scoring the only try of the match, via Bob Fulton, Manly went down to the Tigers by 8-5. O'Connell though had built the foundations of a credible team in 1966 and 1967 and under the coaching of George Hunter in 1968, Manly once again returned to the Grand Final. The Sea Eagles had played exceptional football throughout the season, but as the play-offs dawned they seemed to lose their intensity and ability to score tries. They accounted for the South Sydney Rabbitohs by 23-15 in the Major Semi-Final to gain a place in the Grand Final and a week off. Souths disposed of the Dragons in the Final and Manly Sea Eagles fans felt confident that their first premiership title was imminent. However, they hadn't counted on the experience Souths gained from the 1967 Grand Final and they settled into the game much quicker than Manly. Souths held a 13-2 lead early in the second half, and as Manly started overcoming their nerves they clawed back to 13-9 down with fifteen minutes remaining. Manly though couldn't find the break they needed and Souths held on to take the title. It was Manly's fourth Grand Final loss in 23 seasons and the unwanted tag of "premiership bridesmaids" was bestowed upon the club. The bulk of the team returned to the Grand Final in 1970 when Manly again fell to South Sydney - this time by 23 to 12. To say the club and its supporters were frustrated would be to understate the situation - nothing short of a premiership title would placate them. Arthurson then went on a buying spree that saw the 1971 side bolstered by North Sydney's Ken Irvine, Mal Reilly from England and Woy Woy youngster Graham Eadie. The team produced the desired results and they won the minor premiership by a clear four point margin. However they too faltered as the Sea Eagles lost their semi-finals against Souths and St. George, albeit the games were close results. Arthurson then ensured Manly would be forever "hated" by the fans and officials of rival clubs when he secured the signatures of Souths pair' John O'Neill and Ray Branighan. The side immediately became clear favourites for the 1972 title. Manly lived up to the expectations throughout the season and the Sea Eagles appeared even more imposing with the addition of local junior Terry Randall and the improved form of Ian Martin. The side swept all before them and expectations were extremely high when they took the field for the club's sixth Grand Final - this time it was against fellow big-spenders, Eastern Suburbs. Manly was coached by Ron Willey and the team that day was: Graham Eadie, Ken Irvine, Ray Branighan, Bob Fulton, Max Brown, Ian Martin, Dennis Ward, Mal Reilly, Terry Randall, Allan Thomson, John O'Neill, Fred Jones (c) and Bill Hamilton In the end it was an anti-climax as Manly dominated proceedings to take a 19-4 lead in the final quarter of the game, before two late Roosters tries flattered the scoreline - 19-14. Manly completed an unbeaten run of fifteen games to take the title. Manly's supremo Ken Arthurson recalled later: "It was just a dream come true, I know we celebrated there for some time, and I didn't take a backward step in the celebrations either! It was pandemonium back at the Leagues Club. The street outside was packed and you couldn't move inside." Frank Stanton's reserve grade team kept the pressure up on the 1st grade players in 1973 with a host of promising juniors, spearheaded by Max Krilich and Alan Thompson. Manly made it back to back titles in 1973 when they defeated Cronulla in the toughest Sydney Grand Final witnessed in decades. The Sharks were led by Englishmen Tommy Bishop and Cliff Watson who tried to "spark" the young Cronulla players to unsettle the experienced Manly side. What resulted was on-field mayhem as skirmishes erupted everywhere. Eventually Manly, or more specifically Bob Fulton, focussed enough on the football to score two tries and see Manly through to a 10-7 win. The following two seasons saw Manly continue as one of the top clubs in the competition, although they fell in the finals series in both years as Eastern Suburbs took the spotlight. Under the coaching of Frank Stanton, Manly returned again to the Grand Final in 1976 where they faced up to Parramatta who were participating in their first premiership decider. In the end, it was a turn-around for Manly when it was their big match experience that gave them the much needed edge to outlast the Eels by 13-10, despite only scoring one try. The dropped pass by Parramatta winger Neville Glover with the Manly goal-line beckoning didn't hurt either! The Manly side included some great players including three British Test representatives - Phil Lowe, Gary Stephens, Steve Norton, Graham Eadie, Russel Gartner, Tom Mooney, Bob Fulton, John Harvey, Alan Thompson and Max Krilich. The Sea Eagles though were shattered shortly after when the news came through that their captain Bob Fulton was heading off to Eastern Suburbs to finish his career. In 1977 Manly fell early in the semi-finals and 1978 looked to be heading the same way until the Sea Eagles produced one of the most remarkable semi-final runs in rugby league history. Apart from Fulton, the bulk of the 1976 side was still playing and coach Frank Stanton was still at the helm. The season also saw the emergence of a new "wiz-kid" in the shape of Wagga Wagga's Steve Martin. Manly finished third on the table and played Cronulla in the first semi-final. The Sharks won a hard tussle and the Sea Eagles were sent into the next weekend's sudden death semi-final against Parramatta. The game against the Eels ended in a draw and the teams were forced into a mid-week replay. Parramatta went to a commanding lead and look to have the game in their keeping until the Sea Eagles finished with a late flourish to take the win. The reward for the weary Manly side was a place in the preliminary final against the minor premiers Western Suburbs team, three days later. Despite playing three games in the space of seven days, and having many injured players take the field with pain-killing injections, the Sea Eagles prevailed 14-7 over the Magpies and earned a rematch against the Cronulla Sharks in the Grand Final. For the second season in a row the Grand Final was drawn and the two teams had to play again, only this time they had only three days rest as the Kangaroo touring squad was leaving for England on the Friday. Ironically, Cronulla was worse for wear than Manly and the Sea Eagles were able to account for the Sharks easily in the replay to take the title. It had taken them six matches since the semi-finals began to win their fourth premiership. The Manly Sea Eagles though didn't perform to expectations during the following season, finishing outside of the final five. The lingering effects of the 1978 battles and the ensuing Kangaroo Tour looked to have taken their toll. Memories of the season do however include some infamous meetings between the Wests "fibros" and the Manly "silvertails". The club's self-imposed salary cap that had seen Fulton leave after 1976 was discarded by Arthurson as he went after three of Wests star players: Les Boyd, Ray Brown and John Dorahy. Under new coach Allan Thomson the 1980 campaign started well enough, with Manly winning the pre-season competition (a 21-12 win over Balmain) but failed again to be a serious threat to the premiership. Under coach Ray Ritchie, Manly were back in the semi-finals in 1981 where they met Newtown and the most brutal brawl ever witnessed on Australian TV ensued. Manly's hardmen Mark Broadhurst, Les Boyd and Terry Randall were well amongst the action. Despite a spirited comeback on the scoreline by Manly, the Jets held on to win the game 20-15 and the Sea Eagles' season was over. Manly returned to play Grand Finals against Parramatta in 1982 and 1983 but couldn't hold back the Jack Gibson coached Eels - which was particularly disappointing for Bob Fulton's 1983 Manly team who won the minor premiership by eight points and included such stars as Phil Blake, Chris Close, Kerry Boustead, Ian Schubert, Alan Thompson, Max Krilich, Noel Cleal, Paul Vautin and Ray Brown. However, in 1987 Manly again won the title when they beat the Canberra Raiders who were playing their first Grand Final. Manly were clearly the best team all season and played a fine open style of rugby league, which contrasted with the dour play of recent years (the 1986 Grand Final was won by Parramatta in a tryless game). The team again included an Englishman, Kevin Ward (a hard playing Test front rower) as well as Cliff Lyons, Paul Vautin, Michael O'Connor, Noel Cleal, Ron Gibbs, Dale Shearer and Des Hasler. The following week Manly travelled to England and played Wigan at a packed Central Park for the World Club Championship. In a night that will be long remembered in the north of England, the Graham Lowe coached Wigan beat Manly in a tryless game. Manly then went through a lean period under Graham Lowe's coaching until gaining momentum again as the mid-90's approached. The Bob Fulton coached Sea Eagles returned to the play-offs in 1993 and 1994 but were beaten on both occasions in the first elimination semi-final by the Brisbane Broncos. In 1995, amidst the dramas of the Super League war, Manly produced one of its most dominating seasons in the club's history sweeping all teams before them. Unfortunately for the 1995 Sea Eagles a defiant Sydney (Canterbury) Bulldogs denied them their place in premiership winners list. In 1996 a more determined Manly returned to the Grand Final and beat St George to win the title that had eluded them the season before. Rugby League in Australia was split in two in 1997 (ARL and Super League) and Manly were the major flag-ship team of the ARL's competition. For the third year in a row Manly reached the Grand Final, however lapses in their intensity which appeared during the season returned in the premiership decider against Newcastle as the Sea Eagles were beaten on the full-time siren by a Knights try. The Manly teams of 1995 to 1997 produced some of the most entertaining football in Sea Eagles' history and featured many great players such as Geoff Toovey, Nik Kosef, Steve Menzies, Terry Hill, Mark Carroll, the ageless Cliff Lyons and former NZ All Blacks Matthew Ridge and Craig Innes. As with Newtown in the 1981 decider, the failure to win a Grand Final at a pivotal moment in a club's history was to prove significant to Manly's future. For 1998 the playing strength of the Sea Eagles was greatly diminished by a lack of fund's available to the football club. The club had spent much of its resources to assist the ARL's battle and this was exacerbated when the team's major sponsor was lost to a Super League club (Cronulla). At the end of the 1999 season, despite meeting the criteria for inclusion in the NRL's 2000 competition, Manly agreed to merge with the insolvent North Sydney Bears. Together they formed the Northern Eagles for continued participation in the NRL. The Northen Eagles venture ultimately collapsed at the end of the 2001 season and the NRL licence reverted to Manly. The club continued under the Northern Eagles name in 2002, though poor crowds at Gosford saw a quick return to Brookvale Oval. After finishing just outside the semi-finals in 2002, Manly announced that from 2003 onwards they would be playing again as the 'Manly Sea Eagles'. The 2003 and 2004 seasons produced very few moments of joy for Sea Eagles supporters - and some dreadful thrashings. The club improved its playing stocks for 2005, and reached the semi-finals for the first time since 1998. Under the guidance of club great Des Hasler, the Sea Eagles put the dark times well and truly behind them in 2007, reaching the Grand Final. The week leading up to the decider though saw much reflection upon the club's remarkable rise, and the immensity of the achievement seemed to take its toll on the team. Despite being in the game at the half-time break, the Sea Eagles were well beaten by the Melbourne Storm. Finishing level at the end of the 2008 club rounds, Melbourne edged out the Sea Eagles for the minor premiership on points differential. Manly clinically dismantled the finals challenge of the Dragons (38-6) and then the Warriors (32-6) to reach the Grand Final and a re-match against Melbourne. Fanned by "home" support, Manly slowly but surely ground down the Melbourne team, and two tries gave the Sea Eagles an 8-0 half-time lead. A second half blitz though completely destroyed the Storm's chances, with Manly scoring some scintillating tries on their way to a record 40-0 thrashing. It was a fairytale finish for local junior Steve 'Beaver' Menzies, who scored a late try to end his record equalling 349th first grade game.