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The Sea Eagles First Season 1947

When Manly was granted first grade status in 1947, its first match in the big league was a home game at Brookvale Oval against Western Suburbs. Manly played well against more fancied opponents in that historic first match before a crowd of 4,200, scoring three tries to one but narrowly losing the match 15 - 13 courtesy of a string of scrum penalties from referee Aub Oxford.

[Source: Smith 1991. p. 25]

Gordon Willoughby missed the first game through injury and Max Whitehead was the first captain. Second rower Meggsy Kirkwood scored Manly's first try.

After losing the first five matches, coach Harold Johnson was sacked and Ray Stehr appointed as coach.

Left: Gordon Willoughby. Right: Max Whitehead.

Manly finally won its first match on May 31 in round 8 beating fellow new boys Parramatta 15-7 at Brookvale. The Sea Eagles followed up with a spectacular away win against eventual minor premiers Canterbury at Belmore. Behind 13-0 in the first half and 18-7 in the second, Manly stormed home to win 24-23 and shock the Rugby League World. Ron Beaumont played well at fullback in his first grade debut with a strong defensive and tactical kicking game.

But an even greater shock was to follow. After narrowly losing to competition leaders Western Suburbs 13-9 at Pratten Park, Manly thrashed Newtown 33-0, scoring 7 tries in a bruising Round 11 encounter at Brookvale Oval. Johnny Bliss scored 3 tries in the match. But that match was to be the highlight of the season with Manly only winning one of its remaining seven matches, beating Eastern Suburbs 23-12 at the Sydney Sports Ground in Round 17.


Ray Stehr
[source: Smith 1991. p. 30]

Manly won only four matches in its first year scoring 46 tries and conceding 70, but it was enough to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon which went to Parramatta with three wins. Kelly McMahon was the leading point scorer with 74 points. The leading try scorer was Johnny Bliss with ten.

1947 Results
1947 Players

Main source: Smith 1991.

"Kelly" McMahon

Johnny Bliss