Caption: Manly's inaugural first grade team: Back row (l-r) C 'Kelly' McMahon, Merv Gillmer, Keith Kirkwood, Harry Grew, Johnny Bliss (middle row l-r) Jim Hall, A 'Bert' Collins, Max Whitehead (captain), Mackie Campbell, Jim Walsh; front row (l-r) Ern Cannon, Gary Maddrell, Pat Hines.
Today - April 12, 2016 - marks a historic day in the 70th Year Anniversary of the mighty Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.
It is 69 years today since the Sea Eagles played their inaugural match in the NSWRL first grade premiership against Western Suburbs Magpies at Brookvale Oval on Saturday, April 12, 1947.
The Sea Eagles were granted entry to the 1947 NSWRL first grade competition on November 4, 1946, and have gone on to win eight premierships to become one of the most powerful and successful rugby league clubs in the game.
Although the Sea Eagles scored three tries to one and led 13-9 at half-time, Wests full-back Bill Keato kicked six goals from six attempts to give the Magpies a 15-13 victory in front of a crowd of 4,200.
Max Whitehead, one of Manly’s most experienced players having played at Norths since 1942, was the first captain.
Second-rower Keith ‘Megsy’ Kirkwood went down in history for being Manly’s first tryscorer.
Kirkwood recalls the historic try in the book, ‘The Sea Eagles Has Landed’.
“Kelly McMahon broke down the wing and centre-kicked towards Wests posts. I was always schooled at Norths to go up the middle and on this occasion I caught the ball on the first bounce and scored underneath the crossbar,’’ Kirkwood said.
Manly centre Mackie Campbell – the grandfather of Sea Eagles legend Steve Menzies – had mixed feelings about the first game.
“A first up win would have been great for the club and we completely outplayed Wests on the day, but we were penalised out of it by referee Aub Oxford, particularly for scrum infringements,’’ Kirkwood said in the book.
Having lost their first five matches, the Sea Eagles sacked coach Harold Johnson, replacing him with former Eastern Suburbs international forward Ray Stehr.
Manly Warringah recorded their first premiership victory on May 31 in round eight, a 15-7 win over Parramatta Eels at Brookvale Oval. Wingers Johnny Bliss and Gordon Willoughby scored two tries each in the five tries to one win in front of a crowd of 3,200.
Ironically, 69 years later, the Sea Eagles play Parramatta at Brookvale Oval in round seven of the Telstra Premiership this Thursday night. Will history repeat itself with a Sea Eagles win? The Sea Eagles will wear their Heritage Jersey for the game.
Manly’s 1947 season
Home ground: Brookvale Oval
- First premiership match: lost 15-13 to Western Suburbs, Brookvale Oval, Saturday, April 12
- First win: vs Parramatta, 15-7, Saturday, May 31, Rd 8, Brookvale Oval.
- Finished: Ninth
- Top point scorer: Kelly McMahon (74 points, 8 tries, 25 goals)
- Top try scorer: Johnny Bliss (10).
- Biggest win: 33-0 vs Newtown, Rd 11, Brookvale Oval.
- Biggest loss: 61-11 vs St George, Rd 4, Hurstville Oval.
- Tries: 46, Goals: 52, Points: 242.
- 32 players used in first grade
- Coaches: Harold Johnston (Rd 1-5), Ray Stehr (Rd 6-18).
- Biggest home crowd: 3,600 v Balmain Tigers, Rd 6; Average home crowd: 3,400.
Rd 1: lost 15-13 to Western Suburbs, Brookvale Oval; Rd 2; lost 33-17 to Newtown, Erskineville Oval; Rd 3: lost 15-13 to South Sydney, Sydney Sports Ground; Rd 4: lost 61-11 to St George, Hurstville Oval; Rd 5: lost 26-8 to Eastern Suburbs, Brookvale; Rd 6: lost 24-10 to Balmain, Brookvale; Rd 7: lost 21-9 to North Sydney, North Sydney Oval; Rd 8: d Parramatta 15-7, Brookvale Oval.
Rd 9: d Canterbury 24-23, Belmore Oval; Rd 10: lost to Western Suburbs 13-9, Pratten Park; Rd 11: d Newtown 33-0, Brookvale Oval; Rd 12: lost 22-16 to South Sydney, Brookvale Oval; Rd 13:lost 15-7 to St George, Brookvale Oval; Rd 14: lost to Balmain 17-0, Leichhardt Oval; Rd 15: lost to North Sydney 19-11, Brookvale Oval; Rd 16: lost 11-6 to Parramatta, Cumberland Oval; Rd 17: d Eastern Suburbs 23-12, Sydney Sports Ground; Rd 18: lost 30-17 to Canterbury, Brookvale Oval.