last Fulton gets top honour
[Extracted from Whiticker 1994, pp
premiership title proved to be the crowning
achievement in the career of Bob Fulton. Capping
two decades of involvement in the code at the
highest level, Fulton garnered the honour which
had eluded him in a nine year coaching career
when Manly won the 1987 grand final against
Manly dominated the 1987
season with a 12 match winning sequence between
May and July. With the failure of 1980s perennial
grand finalists Parramatta and Canterbury to
qualify for the final five, the premiership
desperately called out for an underdog. Manly's
win over the gallant Raiders provided fans with
the most interesting conclusion to the League
season for many years.
roots to Manly's first premiership in almost a
decade can be traced back to the club's loss to
Parramatta in the 1983 grand final. Bob Fulton
returned to the club that year after six seasons
at Easts and he can take much of the credit for
pursuing those players he needed to win the
with sons Gareth and Kane
survivors of the 18-6 loss to Parramatta in 1983 were
Noel Cleal and club captain, Paul Vautin. Cleal had
developed into one of the most menancing forwards in the
game and although Vautin had been largely overlooked by
the Australian selectors, his leadership of the Sea
Eagles was an integral factor in the club's success.
|In 1984, a
young schoolteacher who had spent several seasons
warming the bench at Penrith trialled with the
club. Halfback Des Hasler, whom Fulton regards as
one of the most dedicated players he has ever
coached, became a mainstay of the Manly side and
achieved Test selection the following year. The
Manly coach also gained the services of two
former "bad boys" in the code - Cliff
Lyons and Ron Gibbs. Lyons gave away cheap shots
to concentrate on class football, while the
transformation of former Easts' forward Ron Gibbs
was similarly a "Jeckyll and Hyde"
A further asset to the side was
winger-turned-hooker, Mal Cochrane. The 1986
Rothmans medallist was a reliable goalkicker as
well as being a deceptive runner in the open.
|Prop, Phil Daley had greatly
benefited from his experience of the 1986
Kangaroo tour and while the cynics may say that
no Manly side would be complete without an
English import, Castleford prop Kevin Ward more
than justified his place in the side. The club's
decision to fly Ward back out to Australia
specifically for the grand final paid dividends
when the rugged forward produced a tireless
display in hot conditions.
Manly's masterstroke was the signing of former
Rugby Union international Michael O' Connor from
St George. Regarded as one of the most gifted
attacking backs in the game, O'Connor proved to
be a sensation on the 1986 Kangaroo tour and
returned to provide a much needed spark to the
Sea Eagle backline.
Ward on the burst
Hasler and Phil Daley
by halves Lyons and Hasler, the backs contained
abundant pace through fullback Dale Shearer (yet
another member of the unbeaten 1986 Kangaroos),
New Zealander Darryl Williams and club wingers.
Stuart Davis and David Ronson.
Manly's reserve grade side also represented on
grand final day, Bob Fulton was faced with the
problem of using fresh reserves. After consulting
reserve grade coach Alan Thompson, Fulton made
the professional decision to rest halfback Paul
Shaw and prop Mark Pocock for the first grade
bench. While this may have cost the club the
reserve grade premiership (Manly lost 11-0 to
Penrith), the decision was ultimately justified
by the injuries the first grade squad was to
suffer during the match.
September 27, 50,201 fans were on hand to watch the last
Rugby League match played at the SCG. Network 10
televised a memorable pre-match entertainment involving a
symbolic building of a huge model of the Sydney Harbour
Bridge by representatives of the Navy' s apprentices.
the match, Manly attempted to exploit the gaps out wide
which had been evident in Canbera's defences during the
semi-finals. Cliff Lyons skirted wide to link up with his
outside backs and an astute kicking game kept the Raiders
hemmed in on their own side of half-way. Lyons stepped
inside the Raiders' defence and found Noel Cleal
stampeding on to the ball but Ceal's final pass to Des
Hasler was ruled forward.
Manly raid broke down when Lyons' pass to O'Connor was
put to ground but it was to be a case of third time lucky
for the live-wire pivot. Scurrying from a scrum win on
the Canberra quarter-line, Lyons brushed off the tackle
of Chris O 'Sullivan and stepped inside Gary Belcher to
score. The Sea Eagles led 6-0 at half-time and it was
only a crushing ball-and-all tackle by Belcher on Dale
Shearer on the Canberra tryline which stopped the lead
from being greater.
Canberra was still in the match but hope faded straight
after the resumption of play. Belcher fielded the ball
from the kick-off in his in-goal but was penalised for
shepherding behind Chris O'Sullivan as he ran the ball
out from under his posts. It was a gift penalty goal for
Michael O'Connor to take Manly to an 8-0 lead. The Sea
Eagles kept the pressure on Canberra by charging down two
attempted clearing kicks by a tiring Mal Meninga. Only
occasionally did the Raiders break through. After a run
by Rod Jackson, Manly's Phil Daley was penalised for a
high tackle and Meninga's goal finally put Canberra on
experiencing injury problems and with Gibbs, Cleal and
Cochrane going down hurt at different stages, the pace of
the match slowed. O'Connor landed another penalty goal
and when Meninga was replaced after 15 minutes of the
second half, the lap of honour seemed only a formality
for the minor premiers. Two minutes later, Shearer's
crossfield kick was grounded over the line by O'Connor in
the Paddington corner of the ground. The Manly centre
seemed to have been in front of Shearer's kick but the
converted try cemented Manly's lead, 16-2.
|It took a clever try by Canberra in
the 70th minute to ram home the fact that the Sea
Eagles still had a game to win. Chris O'Sullivan
went down "injured" after being tackled
and then miraculously popped up in the next
passage of play to take the inside pass from Ivan
Henjack and score. It was an ingeniously
constructed "trojan horse" move, which
Gary Belcher converted to narrow the scores to
Ron Gibbs' return from the head-bin
helped snap the Sea Eagles out of their
complacency. Daley's tackle on Canberra
replacement Terry Regan and Dale Shearer's
try-saving tackle on Ashley Gilbert three minutes
from full-time ended any chance of a Canberra
fightback. Paul Vautin led the charge back
up-field with Hasler being bundled into the
corner post after a run-around movement with
on full-time, O'Connor landed his fifth goal
after the Raiders were penalised in front of
their own posts. It was a basic error from
Canberra, off-side in a tap kick to restart play,
but it summed up the lack of experience in the
side. The 18-8 scoreline was a fair indication of
Manly's supremacy on the day and a just result
when considering that the Sea Eagles were by far
the most consistent side during the year.
Gibbs on the fly
Lyons was awarded the "Clive Churchill Medal"
after a busy and constructive display. In October, Manly
travelled half-way round the world to take part in the
first Club Challenge on English soil. The Sydney
premiers, facing an almost impossible hurdle to back-up
after the end of the Australian season, were beaten in a
tryless match by English champions Wigan, 8-2."
Sydney Cricket Ground.
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.
Mark Pocock for Noel Cleal; Paul Shaw for head
bin (twice for Ron Gibbs).
Manly Sea Eagles - 18 (O'Connor,
Lyons tries; O'Connor 5 goals) defeated
Canberra Raiders - 8 (O'Sullivan
try; Meninga, Belcher goals).
Medal Winner: Cliff Lyons.
1987 Grand Final Index