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75 years to the day of first Sea Eagles match

Today, April 12, marks a major milestone in the proud and rich history of the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.

For it is 75 years to this day - Saturday, April 12, 1947 - that Manly played their inaugural match in the NSWRL first grade premiership against Western Suburbs Magpies at Brookvale Oval in front of a crowd of 4,200.

Manly were granted entry to the 1947 NSWRL first grade competition on November 4, 1946. Since then, Manly have won eight first grade premierships to become one of the most successful rugby league clubs in the game.

Max Whitehead had the honour in 1947 of being the first Manly captain after having played at North Sydney since 1942.

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.
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.

Although the Sea Eagles scored three tries to one, Wests full-back Bill Keato kicked six goals from six attempts to give the Magpies a 15-13 victory.

Second-rower Keith ‘Megsy’ Kirkwood went down in history for being Manly’s first tryscorer.

“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 in the 'Sea Eagle Has Landed' book.

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 added.

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.

Celebrate our proud history with a Heritage jersey