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Champaigne year
from February to September

By Peter Peters
Big League Annual, October 1987, p. 13

THE J.J. Giltinan Shield is back over the Spit Bridge for the first time since 1978 and the Sea Eagles' greatest player, Bob Fulton, has at last got the monkey off his back.

Fulton schemed the win brilliantly and Manly proved they could lead from start to finish over a gruelling season and emerge deserved premiers of the 1987 Winfield Cup. It's been a long time between champagne popping for Manly and the 18-8 grand final win over Canberra broke the Canterbury-Parramatta domination of grand finals in the '80s.

Manly's side was committed to a grand final victory well before September 27 in the blazing heat of 31 degrees. Skipper Paul Vautin — in his ninth year with Manly — was both an inspiring and courageous skipper. "When Cliff Lyons scored in the 26th minute I knew we wouldn't surrender," Vautin said. "There was never a chance this side would buckle under pressure against any side.

"We were hungry for a victory. This was our best chance and we wanted it for ourselves, our family, our district and for coach Bob Fulton. "Fulton is much maligned by people who don't know him. "He's the greatest coach I have played under and we dug deep for Bozo to repay the hours and the unfair slamming he has received since he took up coaching.

"I couldn't be happier. I've tasted defeat in two previous grand finals and didn't want it again. "It is sheer relief really — we were the best side all season and deserved to win."

Five-eighth Cliff Lyons, winner of man of the match in the grand final, slips away from Canberra forward Terry Regan's attempted tackle at the SCG.

The 18-8 grand final win didn't show the superiority of Manly over Canberra. The side had four tries disallowed by referee Mick Stone with a few centimetres the difference between the scoreline and one around the 30-8 margin.

A Cliff Lyons try in the first half and a Michael O'Connor try from a Dale Shearer kick 15 minutes into the second half had Manly in front 16-2 and in an unbeatable position. O'Connor's perfect goalkicking in a pressure cooker game (five from five) was the icing on the cake.

Manly had many stars in the blast furnace conditions. Five-eighth Cliff Lyons was the winner of the second Clive Churchill medal. Lyons was brilliant, particularly in the first half when given a free reign to attack more by coach Fulton. His defence was outstanding and he is a turned around footballer in 12 months.

Just over a year ago his career was at the crossroads — sent off in a sudden death semi-final and looking for both stability and consistency as well as discipline. He says Fulton has given him the right advice to get all three.

Not far behind Lyons was English front rower Kevin Ward. Ward was magnificent in the rucks, a real powerhouse and worth every cent of the airfare Manly paid to get him back from England for the big game. He tore into the rucks with great determination and his defence was rock solid.

His English coach Mal Reilly rated him the best forward on the field ... and there could be no arguments. But what of the wholehearted effort of Ron Gibbs and Des Hasler, the sheer brilliance of Michael O'Connor, the safety of Dale Shearer and the inspiration of Paul Vautin?

Every player pulled their weight and Noel Cleal ignored smashed ribs to play his part in the victory.

Manly were never going to be denied this victory in 1987.

Back to 1987 Grand Final Index