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Nov 4: The day it all began for the Sea Eagles

From the unwavering support of an ‘old rival’ to eight premiership titles, the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles have come a long way in its 74 year history.

It is why today’s date – November 4 – will always be remembered as one of the most significant dates in our proud Club’s history.

For it was on this day – November 4, 1946 – that Manly Warringah were granted entry to the NSWRL competition.

The Manly District Junior Rugby League was formed in 1932 as part of the North Sydney District Rugby League with 11 teams participating in the A and B grades.

After having their applications denied in 1937 and 1944, Manly Warringah was finally given the green light on the back of their district junior representative side winning the President’s Cup competition in 1946.

With the President’s Cup considered as the entry level to the NSWRL first grade competition, Manly Warringah beat Norths, 12-8, in the President’s Cup final at the Sydney Cricket Ground on June 17 as the curtain-raiser to the  opening Ashes Test between Australia and the British Lions.

With the support of ‘parent club’ Norths, who had plenty of Manly juniors throughout their graded teams, Manly Warringah presented their case at the special NSWRL general committee meeting on Monday, November 4, 1946, led by Manly JRL President, Bill Seymour, Secretary Jack Munro, and long-serving committeeman, Norman McNally.

Norths believed Manly's inclusion in the competition would provide a far better platform for Rugby League to gain a hold over Rugby Union in the peninsula area.

Fortunately, the motion to accept Manly Warringah was carried unanimously. Parramatta was also granted entry at the same meeting for the 1947 season.

With Manly Warringah now accepted into the NSWRL for 1947, Norths were the big losers with 20 Manly juniors returning to play for their local club in their first season.

The inaugural meeting of the Manly-Warringah District Rugby League Football Club was held at Luana Hall in Dee Why (now Dee Why RSL Club) on November 20, 1946.

It wasn’t until January, 1947, that Manly Warringah would adopt the maroon and white as its district colours of the Freshwater Surf Club and the Sea Eagle, often seen at the time on the Sydney coastline, as its emblem.

The Sea Eagles played their first premiership on April 12, 1947, going down 15-13 to Western Suburbs at Brookvale Oval.

Little did the pioneers of 1946 know what would later become of Manly Warringah, a club with eight titles to its name, a wealth of internationals, that has now become one of the most successful rugby league clubs in the world.

As for Norths, history shows that Manly and Norths would become fierce rivals in the ‘local derby’ before both clubs entered an ill-fated merger between 2000-2002 as the Northern Eagles. The licence was fully reverted back to the Manly Sea Eagles for the 2003 season.

Ken Arthurson, the ‘Godfather of Manly’, was full of praise for what the Sea Eagles have achieved since their formation.

“From the time I played my junior rugby league as a half-back with the Freshwater Surf Club in the 1940s, all I ever wanted to do was to play for Manly,’’ Arthurson said.

“To then be able to not only pull on the maroon and white jumper, but to serve as a coach and an administrator is something that I will always cherish. 

“Manly has played in 19 Grand Finals and have won eight premierships which is a tremendous achievement. Our first Grand Final came in our fifth year after our first season in 1947 and although we didn’t win, it paved the way for future years.

“The one thing that I am also very proud of is that this great Club has never had the honour of receiving the dreaded wooden spoon.

“Manly is one of the really great rugby league clubs and they will always be very dear to my heart.

“I wish the Sea Eagles all the very best both on and off the field for their 75th Anniversary in 2021.”

Sea Eagles Chairman Scott Penn said November 4 would always be a significant date for the Club.

“Today is a very proud milestone for our great Club. To be widely recognised as one of the most successful and iconic Rugby League Clubs in the greatest game of all is testament to the people who came before us, ,and to those who are now representing the Sea Eagles brand, both on and off the field,’’ Penn said.

“We are thankful to everyone who have supported us on our journey thus far and as we enter our 75th year, we have so much to be excited about. With our Centre of Excellence and Northern Stand starting construction and hope for a bigger and redevelopment in the wing, we will deliver the ‘Fortress’ we are proud of and know that our incredibly talented team can deliver us more on field success in the near future.

“Our eight premierships are a testament to our winning culture. We have high expectations for the future and we will all be doing our best to make you proud to be part of the Sea Eagles family.”