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1950 - Embryonic Silvertails

The 1950 season started dramatically with key signing Wally O'Connell having to stand down from playing and turn his back on a flourishing test career to sign as coach for Manly. [See Wally O'Connell.] The following season summary is extracted from Smith 1991, pp 37-38.

'Putting aside the off-field dramas, O'Connell began moulding his new side into shape. Ron Beaumont was at fullback, Johnny Bliss and Ron Rowles on the wings, Gordon Willoughby, Ray Black in the centres, Kelly McMahon, Perce Pritchard and President's Cup graduate Ken Arthurson in the halves, Sandy Herbert, Jack Fields, Megsy Kirkwood, Jack Hubbard in the back row, Fred Brown, Roy Bull and Kevin Schubert in the front row.

"They were very green and playing-coach was so important at the time, you could get your message over much quicker by explaining your motives on the field," said O'Connell. "We became a closely-knit mob and we were proud of our set-up and we developed a lot of interesting attacking moves. To see them come off was a great thrill for everybody."

Manly went down narrowly 20-16 to Newtown on the opening day but followed up the following week with a prestigious 13-12 win over St George at Brookvale Oval, where the Sea Eagles' young pack was outstanding with Test hooker Schubert winning the scrums by a three to one margin.

That set up a match-of-the-day meeting with Balmain at the SCG where the Sea Eagles were sensationally pipped in the last minute by a 45-metre penalty goal from former Test skipper Joe Jorgenson. Balmain won 9-8, but Manly was the moral winner — two tries by Ray Black and Ron Rowles to Balmain's one and a whole-hearted defence against a concerted Tigers' second half offensive. Kelly McMahon and Rowles missed three kickable penalty attempts.

There was general agreement that Manly was on the rise. Tom Goodman, of the The Sunday Herald wrote: "Manly-Warringah will be back at the Cricket Ground or yesterday's 20,898 spectators will want to know why."

Alan Hulls said in The Sunday Sun : "Manly players, as soon as they settled down to the unaccustomed SCG atmosphere, showed the benefit of Wally O'Connell's coaching. It was the cleanest game seen on the SCG for many a season. There wasn't a single incident. Manly fullback Beaumont is going to be on the State selectors' minds. There is nothing daring about his play, but he's really sure and his try-saving tackle on Balmain winger Harold Gwyer was beautifully-timed."

The next week Manly's classy backline put the skids under Canterbury at Brookvale Oval skating to a 34-13 win. Winger Gordon Willoughby had one of his best games for the Sea Eagles with a hat-trick of tries, twice skipping around the blind side to score after making the extra man. Halfback Perce Pritchard cut the Berries' defence to pieces and initiated several of Manly's eight tries.

Outside centre Rowles did well in attack, but could only manage four goals from 11 attempts. Schubert out-hooked Don Sinclair 25-16. Manly, after beginning promisingly, would endure an eight-match losing streak mid-season to dip out of semifinal contention, but accounted for Easts, Norths and Parramatta in three of its closing four games to finish eighth on six wins. Indicative of Manly's growing appeal was an increase of 280 in the club's share of gate-takings from competition matches, up to 1,213. Rowles paid a quick dividend on his off-season signing by heading the club's scoring charts on 71 points, while Bliss crossed for 10 tries — a strike rate of 27 tries in 57 first grade appearances.

Fred Brown, Jack Hubbard, Bliss and Beaumont played in all 18 competition games. Kevin Schubert, already the established Test hooker when he joined Manly, played in all three Tests against Ernest Ward's 1950 touring British Lions. Roy Bull and Perce Pritchard represented the State against Queensland and Great Britain.

The die was cast. Manly had altered its creed by embarking on its embryo "silvertail" path, it was entering a period that would become folklore on the peninsula.'

1950 Results
1950 Players

Main source: Smith 1991.


Wally O'Connell

Kevin Schubert


Kevin Schubert, Gordon Willougby and Roy Bull


Gordon Willoughby


Jack Hubbard