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Cliff Lyons

Clifford Patrick Lyons was born in Narrandera on 19 October 1961. When he was four years old his family moved to Brungle (between Tumut and Gundagai), where he lived for another four years.

In 1969 his family moved to live in Sydney first at Newtown then Redfern before moving to Tregear (near St Marys) in 1973. It was while living in Tregear that he first started playing rugby league, in the under 12s for the Tregear Foxes.

From 1974 Cliff boarded during school terms at the Kirinari Youth Centre at Sylvania to attend High School in the Cronulla district. He played both Australian Rules and Rugby League in the Cronulla Sutherland area, but it was at rugby league that he excelled. In 1981 Cliffy was graded by Cronulla to play in the Sharks Under 23 side as a lock and second rower.

In 1982 Cliff was back in the bush playing for the Gundagai Tigers. In 1983, with Cliffy in the side, Gundagai won the Group 9 Premiership after a 20 year drought. Cliffy's form attracted interest from a number of Sydney clubs, and in 1985 he signed with North Sydney.

Cliff made his first grade debut for Norths in a 15-10 win over Illawarra in Wollongong on 14 March 1985. Cliff set up all three Norths tries, kicked a field goal and topped the tackle count in a debut the press heralded as "magical". But Norths had a wretched year culminating in the sacking of coach Greg Hawick and Club Secretary Ken McCaffrey. Cliff had had enough stating that he was "sick of the bitching and in-fighting at the club".

Easts and St George were interested in signing Cliff, but he was looking for a club that would allow him to play his style of football and he signed with Manly on 4 September 1985. Before commencing at Manly Cliff played the 85/86 English season with Leeds and did not return to Australia until April 1986. His debut in reserve grade immediately impressed first grade coach Bob Fulton and he made his first grade debut for Manly against Penrith at Brookvale Oval on 27 April 1986.

With "Fatty" Vautin breaking his arm in Cliff's debut match, Cliffy was to play out of position at lock for much of the 1986 season. Nevertheless, Cliffy had an impressive first year with Manly winning Manly's "Clubman of the Year Award". But it was 1987 that Cliffy really came to the fore playing State of Origin for NSW and winning a premiership with Manly.

With Cliffy feeding a brilliant Manly backline, Manly ran in 95 tries for the season and emphatically beat Canberra in the Grand Final. Cliffy opened the scoring with a solo try and went on to win the Clive Churchill Medal for the best player in the Grand Final that Manly won 18-8.

1990 was another big year for Cliffy winning the Gold Dally M Award for Player of the Year and touring with the Kangaroos to England and France. Australia lost the Frst Test against England and Cliffy was brought into the Second and Third Tests. His role in those two tests is legendary and without him Australia would have undoubtedly lost the Ashes series.

His try that put Australia in front 10-6 in the second half of the Second test, at the end of a 15 pass movement in which Cliff handled the ball three times is one of the best tries ever seen in a rugby league Test match. Later at 10 all Cliffy threw the pass that sent Ricky Stuart careering downfield to set up the match winning try for Mal Meninga.

In 1994 Cliffy won a swath of Awards: including the Dally M Gold Award for the second time. Premiership glory came again in 1996 with the Grand Final win over St George. At 35 it seemed to everyone that it would have been a good time to retire on a winning note. But Cliffy loves playing football and continued playing first grade for another three years until his retirement from first grade in 1999 and even after that played for Umina on the Central Coast.

In 1999 Cliffy tied with Nicky Winmar as "Aboriginal Sportsman of the Year". Cliffy played 309 first grade games for Manly scoring 80 tries and 336 points.

Sources: Whiticker 2000; Smith 1991; McGregor 1991

Cliffy 2002 with one of his faithful fans


PLaying for the Gundagai Tigers
[Whiticker 2000, between pp 28 & 29].

Manly maestro in action 1987

Try time in the 1987 Grand Final
[Whiticker 2000, between pp 76 &77].

Scoring in th 2nd Test v Great Britain 1990
[Whiticker 2000, between pp 132 & 133].

Farewell to the Brookie fans
[Whiticker 2000, between pp 132 & 133].

Nicknames: Rocky; Napper; Little Rambo