November 4, 1946, is the most significant day in the proud history of the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.
Today, November 4, 2015, marks 69 years to the day since Manly Warringah were granted entry to the NSWRL competition after being twice denied in 1937 and 1944. The opportunity came after the Manly and Warringah Junior Rugby League district representative side won the Presidents Cup in 1946 - considered the entry level to the first grade competition.
In the book, ‘The Sea Eagle Has Landed’, author Robert Smith wrote Manly had ‘built an irrefutable argument’ for entry into the competition.
Manly and Warringah Junior Rugby League President, Bill Seymour, Secretary Jack Munro, and long-serving committeeman, Norman McNally, were the local representatives at the special NSWRL general committee meeting.
Parent club North Sydney Bears - established in 1908 - pledged their support despite having a huge influx of Manly juniors in their grades.
“During World War II, no effort was made to increase the number of clubs playing under the control of the NSWRL as there were bigger things to consider,’’ stated Reg Bowd, North Sydney Secretary, in the book.
“But now that the War is over we feel that the time is ripe to extend to league players an opportunity to indulge in their favourite game on their own home grounds. I know of many (rugby) union code players in Manly-Warringah, who are anxious to change to league yet, so far, they have not been given the opportunity.”
The motion to accept Manly was carried unanimously. Parramatta were also granted entry at the same meeting.
Rugby league historian Sean Fagan wrote Norths selflessly pledged support for Manly's bid, even though its inclusion would see them lose a large number of players from all grades with the immediate application of the residential rule.
“They believed that Manly's inclusion would provide a far better platform for League to gain a hold over Union in the peninsula area,” Fagan wrote.
League followers in the Manly district packed in to Luana Hall (now Dee Why RSL Club) on Pittwater Road for the inaugural meeting of the Manly-Warringah District Rugby League Football Club on November 20, 1946.
Manly adopted maroon and white as its district colours, the same colours as junior club, Freshwater. The colours were first worn by Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club in 1908.
Manly Warringah chose a Sea Eagle, a native bird of prey on the Sydney coastline, as its emblem.
The inaugural season of the Sea Eagles saw 528 Members enrolled, Brookvale Oval secured as the home ground, and Harold Johnson, the former South Sydney half-back, appointed as the first coach.
The excitement about the new Manly Warringah Club attracted more than 200 players at the first training session at Brookvale Oval.
Manly’s first premiership match resulted in a 15-13 loss to Western Suburbs at Brookvale Oval on Saturday, April 12, 1947.
The first win came in round eight over Parramatta on Saturday, May 31, a 15-7 victory, under new coach, Ray Stehr. Johnson was sacked after the Sea Eagles lost their first five matches.
History now shows the Sea Eagles went on to win eight first grade premierships to become one of the most powerful and successful rugby league clubs in the game.