The oldest living Sea Eagle

Football clubs are founded on their history. Their history helps forge friendships that bonds blokes together for life and memories that last an eternity. 

An unfortunate reality with a Club that has lasted for the best part of 67 years is that when you look through the history records, many great players are no longer with us.

But for a former soldier who played in our first ever competition match, the memories and recollections of our innaugural day will never leave him.

His name is Ernie Cannon and he is the oldest living Sea Eagle. He will celebrate his 94th birthday on the 27th of this month. 

Ernie played in the foundation game for the club against the Western Suburbs on Saturday 12th March 1947 at Brookvale Oval.  Ernie was a hooker and played alongside the likes of Johnny Bliss, Gordon Willoughby and a young Roy Bull – each of which all went on to represent their country.

Despite scoring three tries to one, Manly were beaten that day 15 points to 13.

It’s a result that Ernie has never forgotten.

“I can still remember that game, we should have won it”.

“Not only was our goal kicking poor, but we bombed a couple of other tries”.

Ernie is still a keen and avid supporter of the Sea Eagles.  He takes much interest in today’s game.

“The players are much bigger and faster today than we were,” Cannon said.

“They train hard but they don’t have jobs like we did.  This means they have too much time on their hands and this causes some of them to get into trouble”.

Ernie was born in Pyrmont in August, 1921.  He served as a Navigator at the second World War, and his job was too fly ‘Liberators’ which were big American bombers.  At the end of the war, he spent several months flying Australian Prisoners of War back home.  In 1946 he was officially discharged and this is where he found a home on the Northern Beaches.

He first joined the North Curl Curl Surf Club and in the winter they entered some teams into the Manly Junior Rugby League Competition.  Ernie played A Grade for the Surf Club in 1946 and in the following year was graded for Manly in their first year in the first grade competition.

Max Whithead, one of Sydney’s top sporting personalities was the captain for the first Manly side.  He was a male model, professional wrestler and the first Chesty Bond Model on top of being a great footballer. Max passed away in 2010 and Ernie had great memories of his skipper.

“He was a real character and although he never married, he had plenty of girlfriends”.

To this day, only one other member of the foundation 1947 Manly team remains alive.  Merv Gilmer who is a year or two younger than Ernie and played five-eighth in the first match is still living in the Manly area.

Despite being a foundation member, Ernie’s first grade career was relatively short.  He only played one year with Manly, before he turned to Tennis of which he made more money from.  He owned a block of land, of which he put some night tennis courts on.

“Night tennis was a Novelty after the War and I made more money from my Tennis courts, than I did from football,” Ernie said.

“In those days we received £50 for the season and had to train and work.”

Ernie was married to his wife Joan for more than 50 years, before she passed away several years ago.

Ernie turns 94 this August and while he won’t be able to make it to the match against the Titans, he was presented with a 2014 jersey with a personal message from our current skipper Jamie Lyon at the weekend.