Middleton (Ed.) Rugby League Yearbook 1987-88. pp.
last grand final played on the Sydney Cricket Ground,
after 76 seasons of tenancy there by the game of
Rugby League, was full of free-flowing football and
adventurous play. It was played in the hottest
conditions ever experienced for a grand final, with
the temperature out in the middle estimated at 30-31
|For winners Manly the
sweat was followed by ....the tears. The
thoroughly deserved 18-8 victory was an
emotional event, largely because it brought,
at last, the premiership that the great Bob
Fulton had sought as a coach for eight long
It was a grand final of
master-pupil, with Manly always in control.
Manly captain Paul Vautin before the game had
talked about the Canberra fairytale
and predicted that the last page would be
ripped out. It was.
A class act from kickoff to
final hooter Manly fell down in only one area
the effective finishing off of the
many raids they began. Because of that
Canberra were able to hang on with leech-like
tenacity, never looking winners, but always
almost in reach. Remarkably Manly scored only
two tries in a match in which their dominance
was complete. They had four other 'tries'
(rightly) disallowed by referee Mick Stone,
who made a first class contribution to an
Manly scored one try in each
half, a meagre return for all the dazzle and
apparent supremacy. Cliff Lyons, a popular
winner of the Churchill Medal as man of the
match, scored the first after 26 minutes of
the first half, slipping his rival Chris
O'Sullivan, and carrying defenders over with
was absolutely devastating on his feet in the first
half, although at times carrying the ball too far.
second try was a brilliantly crafted effort,
scored by Michael O'Connor, created by Dale
Shearer. Shearer's cross kick, gathered
impeccably by the flying O'Connor was Rugby
League of the highest order; The O'Connor
conversion from wide out virtually wrapped up
the match, at 16-2.
Canberra had a late thrill left for their
army of supporters when Ivan Henjak created
space for O'Sullivan, and a Raiders try, with
11 minutes left on the clock. That made it
16-8, and ensured there were some thrills in
the last minutes as Canberra pressed for
survived comfortably, and afterwards there were
scenes of great emotion as the Sea Eagles celebrated
their fifth premiership in 40 years. "I'm
ecstatic," coach Fulton told a crowd of 50,201.
stand-out performance of the last grand final at the
Sydney Cricket Ground apart from Cliff Lyons
came from Manly's rock solid English forward
Kevin Ward. Ward, who had arrived only a few days
earlier from the gloomy skies of the English north,
performed magnificently in the heat, defending
stoutly, and taking the ball up with great relish.
Jackson, Lance and Walters were big triers for the
Raiders who could take enormous pride from their
achievements of 1987.
1987, justice was done. Manly were the best team all
year. In a grand final heatwave .....they proved it.
Back to 1987
Grand Final Index