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Another Feather in Fulton's Cap

By Tony Adams
Big League Annual, October 1987

BOB FULTON moved a step closer to League immortality by steering the Manly club to its fifth premiership success. A player in the triumphant Manly sides of 1972, 1973 and 1976, Fulton had done it all on the field. But there were many who thought his coaching record was far from perfect — until this season's superb grand final win over Canberra.

In many ways, Fulton was on a hiding to nothing. He had the best players in the Winfield Cup at his disposal, had reached two grand finals as a coach previously and failed and would have bowed out of the game a loser had Manly lost this time around.

But the Sea Eagles won the grand final over Canberra in such convincing style that even Fulton's strongest critics had to admit he had his side perfectly tuned for the big game. Going into the game after only one match in the past month, Fulton's boys were expected to do it tough against the Canberra Green Machine, the sentimental favorite.

But from the kick-off, it was obvious that this was a match Manly was never going to lose.

Mal Cochrane spots an opening in the defence

The power up front, spearheaded by Englishman Kevin Ward, and the guile out wide of Cliff Lyons ensured the last grand final at the SCG would be a memorable one for Manly fans. Manly took out the big game 18-8 before a crowd of over 50,000 fans in sweltering 31 degree heat.

Canberra provided stiff opposition and their defence cracked just once in the first half — when Lyons broke away from a scrum in the 27th minute. Michael O'Connor's boot added a couple of penalty goals, with Mal Meninga replying for Canberra to leave the score at 10-2 midway through the second half.

Then, the turning point. With Manly on the attack, fullback Dale Shearer kicked the ball across field; Michael O'Connor received the perfect bounce and scored. Was he offside? Canberra fans said yes, but referee Mick Stone said no and, at 16-2, the grand final had been won and lost.

Canberra produced their best football in the last quarter of the match and gave their fans a glimmer of hope with a try to Chris O'Sullivan after an Ivan Henjak reverse pass.

The Raiders pounded the Manly line for much of the remaining time, but the well-disciplined Sea Eagles defence held firm to secure the title.

Few could argue with the final result — Manly were the minor premiers, the best team all season and played an entertaining style of football that brought the fans to their feet.

But the gallant Canberra outfit received plenty of accolades from the League world as well. Two weeks before the finals began, the Raiders were favorite to miss out on a spot in the top five. Their adventurous, daring and unpredictable football was the highlight of the final series and a credit to coaches Don Furner and Wayne Bennett.

There was no doubt, however, that the day belonged to Fulton, Grand final captain, Test captain and now premier coach.

MANLY 18 (M. O'Connor, C. Lyons tries; M. O'Connor 5 goals) d CANBERRA 8 (C. O'Sullivan try; G. Belcher, M. Meninga goals).
SCRUMS: Manly 12-11.
PENALTIES: Canberra 9-7.
CROWD: 50,201.

Big League Annual, October 1987

Back to 1987 Grand Final Index