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1987 Season - Fulton's Premiership

Manly recruited well for the 1987 season signing Michael O'Connor and Kiwi international Darrell Williams. Also signed for part of the year was Britain's test prop Kevin Ward who ended up playing a vital role in Manly's fifth premiership win.

Manly looked strong on paper with a strong set of forwards including Ward, Ron Gibbs, Paul Vautin, Phil Daley, Noel Cleal and Mal Cochrane. Manly also had high quality backs in Des Hasler, Cliff Lyons, Michael O'Connor, Darrell Williams, Dale Shearer and David Ronson.

In round 1 Manly won a dour, try-less struggle against
St George at Kogarah with Mal Cochrane kicking a penalty with two minutes to go to level the match 2 all. Manly showed their attacking potential in better light in round two running in 7 tries against Penrith at Brookvale to win 42 - 18, despite the sending off of Ron Gibbs. Gibbs was later exonerated.

In round 3 Manly won a tough encounter against Wests
22 - 11 at Campbelltown and then maintained their unbeaten record with a stunning 26 -4 win over Parramatta at Brookvale. Michael O'Connor starred in the 5 try to nil victory with Ian Barkley scoring 2 tries.

After a bye in round 5, Manly suffered three defeats in a row. The first was against Canterbury 6 - 18 at Belmore, the second against Souths 18-28 at Brookvale after Phil Daley was sent off in the first half.

The third loss against Cronulla at Endeavour Field was surrounded in controversy. Manly were caned 13-4 by referee Bill Harrigan in the penalties and with Manly leading 13-12, in the final minutes Des Hasler was sin-binned for scrum infringements. Cronulla scored a late try to win 18-13. Coach Bob Fulton was fined $1,000 for his infamous comment that he hoped referree Harrigan would get run over by a cement truck.

In the round 9 Anzac day match at Brookvale against Easts, Manly was again left a man short when Cliff Lyons was sent off early in the second half. In the fighting spirit of ANZAC Manly gutsed out a solid 18-10 win. In round 10 Manly beat Canberra by the same score at Seiffert Oval, the match in which Mal Meninga shattered his arm on a goal post.

Manly next accounted for Illawarra
22 -12 followed by a 30 - 22 win over Norths at North Sydney Oval in which Mark Pocock was sent off after a wild all-in brawl. He was subsequently suspended for 2 weeks for "running some distance to punch an opponent".

In round 13 a crowd of 25,448 packed Brookvale Oval for the much anticipated clash with competition leaders Balmain. Manly ripped the Tigers apart scoring 9 tries in a 48 - 14 thrashing. Darrell Williams scored 3 tries and Michael O'Connor and Cliff Lyons had magnificent games.

Manly won its sixth game on the trot with a dazzling display of wet weather football beating St George 20 - 6 at Brookvale. Then at Penrith Park a depleted Manly hung on for a 12 - 10 win over the Panthers.

In round 16, Manly was down 12 - 25 against Wests with 16 minutes to play before ruuning in thre late tries to win 26 - 25 in the last minute.

Manly then beat Parramatta 30 - 22, Canterbury 32 - 2, Souths 16 - 13 and Cronulla 30 - 8 to make it 12 wins on the trot against every team in the competition, and 6 points clear at the head of the table.

The crunch came at Henson Park in round 22 when a fired up Easts came out firing against a jaded Manly. The Roosters raced to 20 - 0 half time lead, and
26 - 0 early in the second half before Manly fought back to make the score a more respectable 16 - 26. Manly then narrowly defeated Canberra 20 - 18 and trailled 4 - 17 with 20 minutes remaining against Illawarra at Wollongong before storming home for a remarkable 28 - 17 victory.

In round 25 against Norths at Brookvale Manly showed brilliance in attack but brittleness in defence as the Bears upset the Sea Eagles 32 - 30. After that Match of "touch football" coach Bob Fulton concentrated on stiffening the defence and the message could not have come at a better time. In the final round Manly were back to their best with a rousing 26 - 8 win over Balmain at Leichhardt.

Manly finished as minor premiers on 41 points, 6 clear of second placed Eastern Suburbs. Manly won a place in the Grand Final with a tough hard, fought 10 - 6 win over the Roosters in the major semi final.

Fatty Vautin played an inspirational role in the semi-final needing six stitches above his right eye he made a try saving tackle in the second half. Fatty was hungry for a premiership stating that: "Winning a premiership is not a dream anymore, it's an ache in the belly. It's a real need, something that won't let me rest easy until I have it".

Manly, of course, did go on to win the 1987 Grand Final against Canberra, the last one played on the Sydney Cricket Ground. For that story click here.

Links:

1987 Results
1987 Players
1987 Grand Final

Main sources: Middleton 1988; Smith 1991; Big League Annual 1987.