Greatest Teams Ever Pt 6: Manly Sea Eagles

One of the most successful teams of the modern era, Manly also had their fair share of success in their earlier days. Both eras had a plethora of talented players which made narrowing down this list into our greatest ever an even harder task.

Though after some digging, some research and some discussion, we narrowed it down to what we felt was the best 17 players to play for Manly. Again, we reiterate that the list is based on players who have played the majority of their games exclusively for Manly.

So here you have it. Our take on Manly’s greatest ever:

1. Grahame Eadie – Regarded as one of the finest players to have laced the boots in the 20th century, Eadie enjoyed a long, lengthy career with the Sea Eagles over 13 seasons. Graded by Manly in 1971, he immediately impressed in the lower grades and his chance came the following year Bob Batty retired. He quickly established himself as a consistent player that Manly could rely on with his powerful running style an attribute of his for the duration of his career.
In full flight, he was hard to stop and defenders struggled to contain him to small amounts of metres. Used sporadically as a goal-kicker in 1972, it was only in 1973 when he took on the goal-kicking duties full-time. In one game against Penrith, he kicked 14 goals and for the following three seasons after that, he finished as the league’s leading point-scorer.
He then became a mainstay of the Australian side for several seasons after that but opted to retire from international rugby league in 1980. 1974 saw Eadie win the Rothmans Medal for best and fairest and in 1978, he produced one of the best performances of the era from a fullback to help Manly to victory in the grand final replay that year. His goal-kicking also got his Manly side over the line during the 1976 season.
His dominance and consistency during the two grand finals was recognised thirty years later, with Eadie awarded retrospective Clive Churchill Medals for his man-of-the-match performance in both years.
Despite the team as a whole declining somewhat, Eadie’s individual form continued despite injury that forced him to miss some of the 1981 season. 1983 proved to be his last as a Manly player but he did go on to break Eric Simms point-scoring record, the highest amount at that time.
He then moved to Halifax where he enjoyed some success. Eadie was selected at fullback in Manly’s 2006 Dream Team.


2. Tom Mooney – Starting out with the Rabbitohs, Mooney made the move to the Sea Eagles in 1975. A prolific try-scorer for much of his career, Mooney enjoyed immediate success in 1976 when he was a part of the club’s premiership success that year. He also finished the year as the league’s leading try-scorer alongside team-mate Bob Fulton.
He also performed strongly in the 1978 grand final scoring a try but in the replay, he failed to cross the try-line. His form was consistent that year and many thought that he was unlucky not to be selected in the Kangaroos tour of 1978 with seven of his other team-mates.
He continued his try-scoring form in 1979 when he finished as the sole leading try-scorer. A further two seasons at the club saw Mooney’s try-scoring exploits decline somewhat and after scoring just nine tries across the 1981 season, he made the decision to retire.
Mooney was then named on the wing in Manly’s greatest team ever in 1990.


3. Steve Menzies – A natural born talent to play rugby league, Menzies had a debut year to remember scoring 16 tries, winning the Dally M Rookie of the Year Award and the Dally M Second Rower of the Year Award. Initially a centre during his junior days with Manly, Menzies started his first-grade career in the back-row. Wearing his trademark headgear, the Manly legend nicknamed ‘Beaver’ caught opposition teams off-guard with genuine pace out wide and a great ability to back up attacking plays.
His good form continued in 1995 as he finished with 22 tries for the season – the first time a forward topped the try-scoring charts since 1945 – before taking out another Dally M Second Rower of the Year Award and representing both NSW and Australia. He was involved in Manly’s grand final loss during the 1995 season and represented Australia soon after.
They would not have to wait long for premiership success, though, with Menzies scoring a try and proving to be a key player in the club’s 1996 grand final win. Making another grand final in 1997, Menzies good form and heroics were not enough as Manly lost this time around.
Menzies was always a tremendous attacking player but his defensive exploits were just as crucial and these are often overlooked based on how well he performed with the ball in hand.
Whilst his try-scoring rate slowed somewhat in the late 90’s, he did pass the century mark for tries during the 1999 season.
An interesting time then arose with Menzies and Manly in the early 2000’s as the side merged with the North Sydney Bears and became the Northern Eagles. In the eyes of some, this should count under Menzies’ career stats as the one team but the history books will state that whilst technically the same, it was actually two separate teams and entities.
When the joint venture ceased at the end of 2002, the Sea Eagles team returned and it made sense to name Menzies as club captain that year.
2004 was another special year for Menzies as he broke a long-standing record held by Frank Burge for most tries scored by a forward in a career. Since that time, he went on to score 180 tries from 349 games, the second most behind Ken Irvine.
He appeared in another grand final in 2007 that the Sea Eagles eventually went on to lose but they got their revenge a year later when they romped home to a comfortable victory the 2008 grand final. After that success and finishing his Manly career on such a high, Menzies departed the NRL and joined Bradford where he finished his rugby league career. He did return for Manly once more, though, but in the Auckland Nines competition.


4. Bob Fulton – Regarded as one of the best players of the 20th century, Fulton signed with the Sea Eagles side in 1966 aged just eighteen, making his debut in the same year. A centre or five-eighth, he made an immediate impact as a youngster and played for NSW in 1967. He became the youngest captain to play in a grand final in 1968 when he led the Manly side out in a game they ultimately lost. He also played in Australia’s successful World Cup campaign that year and had a stint at Warrington in 1969 after completing national service in New Zealand.
He was an integral part of Manly’s 1972 premiership success and finished the year as the season’s leading try-scorer. He emulated that feat again in 1973 and 1974. In the end, he amassed a club record at the time of 129 tries.
He was then a part of Manly’s third premiership success in 1976 before a major shock arose. Fulton, a Manly legend, opted to leave to sign with arch-rivals Easts.
He would return to Manly, though, when he coached the side in 1983. They made the grand final that year but lost to eventual winners Parramatta. They would get their glory, though, winning the 1987 premiership with victory over Canberra. This victory meant that Fulton was the first person at Manly to win a premiership as both a player and a coach. He then went on to stint as Australian coach before returning to Manly in 1993.
Fulton would go on to win a second premiership as Manly coach when the club were successful in the 1996 campaign. At present, he acts as the club’s Head of Football.


5. Ron Rowles – A goal-kicking winger, Rowles is most well-known for breaking numerous point-scoring records at the club throughout his career. He might have played just five seasons with the club but he made the most of it through his try-scoring and goal-kicking.
He was the first player to score more than 100 points in a season and was the season’s leading point-scorer four years running; 1951 (11 tries & 83 goals for 199 points), 1952 (8 tries & 77 goals for 178 points), 1953 (8 tries & 64 goals for 152 points) and 1954 (13 tries & 92 goals for 223 points).
Whilst some of those feats have now been broken, at the time, they were impressive figures to hold.


6. Jamie Lyon – Starting his career at Parramatta, many only remember the way in which he departed that left Eels fans cold and bitter. Heading to England to then play for St Helens, he returned to the NRL with Manly and made his club debut in 2007.
Initially starting in the centres with the club, he was moved to five-eighth and came up against his former side early on which Manly went on to win. In the same year, he played for Australia in the ANZAC Test and for NSW in Games 1 and 2. Manly also made the grand final in 2007 but lost to eventual winners the Melbourne Storm that year.
2008 saw the grand final rematch between Manly and the Storm with the Sea Eagles taking out the premiership this time with a comprehensive win. Switching between centre and five-eighth again in 2009, he became a mainstay at centre with the arrival of Kieran Foran into the Manly side. He also played in the City side in the City v Country clash and for NSW. He was then made co-captain with forward Jason King after the departure of Matt Orford.
The permanent move to centre and co-captaincy spurred Lyon on into arguably his career-best form that culminated in winning the Dally M Centre of the Year Award and again in 2011. Lyon could have played more representative games later on in his career than he did but he opted against it, instead choosing to play for Manly exclusively.
Lyon once again returned to five-eighth for the 2010 season before he shifted to the centres early on to accommodate the debut of Trent Hodkinson. Lyon’s final two representative fixtures came for the Australian side and one game for NSW. In 2011, Lyon was captain when the Manly side defeated the Warriors in the 2011 grand final. He was also named the RLIF centre of the year.
Lyon remained captain up until the end of his Manly career and made another grand final in 2013 which Manly lost to the Roosters. He also won the Dally M Centre of the Year Award in 2013. He replicated that success in 2014 and again took out the award in 2014 as well as Dally M Captain of the Year.
Lyon was just the fourth Manly player to surpass 1000 points for the club. As he played on, his body started to slow down and so Lyon eventually announced his retirement from the NRL and rugby league at the end of 2016.


7. Cliff Lyons – One of the greatest ever to don a Manly jersey, Lyons had stints with the North Sydney Bears, the Leeds Rhinos and the Sheffield Eagles before he eventually joined Manly for the 1986 season. Playing predominantly at lock in his debut year, Lyons impressed and held his spot in the side in 1987 when he was shifted to five-eighth to accommodate the return of Paul Vautin. His Origin debut for NSW came in the same year as did his first taste of premiership success in 1987 when Manly defeated the Raiders.
Lyons’ performance was regarded as the best on ground and as a result was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal. His first appearance in the City v Country game surprisingly came for City, despite Lyons being born in the country region. He represented NSW on two occasions in 1988 before making his international debut for a Rest of the World side. He also the White Rose Trophy for a man of the match performance in Leeds 1988 win in the Yorkshire Cup.
1990 was regarded as his break-out year that culminated in Lyons winning the Dally M Player of the Year Award. It was his ability to set up tries for support players and produce weaving runs to keep opposition players on their toes that led to his personal success in 1990. It all led to numerous appearances for the Australian side and for NSW but 1991, a season that delivered such promise, ended when Manly bombed out in successive rounds.
A remarkable player and talent, Lyons was in his element during during the 1994 Sevens tournament for Manly that saw him win player of the tournament. He then went on to captain an Aboriginal Dream Team in the 1996 tournament. Despite winning a second Dally M Award in 1994 and becoming Manly’s first Rugby League Week Player of the Year recipient, he missed out on representative selection due to his age.
He ignored offers from rivals to stay with Manly in 1995 and played in three consecutive grand finals and winning one – the 1996 premiership success over the St George Dragons.
In 1998, he was used mainly off the bench and he made a decision to depart the club and retire after not being offered a contract for the following year. He made a remarkable comeback in 1999, though, after Manly’s disastrous start to the season that year as he passed 300 first-grade games and was the oldest player to play at that time at 37.
Until Steve Menzies played and finished his career, Lyons was Manly’s games record holder. Lyons returned to Manly in 2012 to coach the NSW Cup side for one year.


8. Roy Bull – A Manly junior, Bull was played in Manly’s inaugural 1947 season as a 17-year old. He was a member of Manly’s winning 1946 President’s Cup team. It was the junior success of Manly at the time that led to a large number of their juniors being promoted to first-grade, Bull being one of those players.
A key player for Manly throughout the entirety of his career, he was playing at prop in all three grand final appearances in 1951, 1957 and 1959. A tremendous prop forward, Bull was a powerful, aggressive player that adapted to the conditions whether it was raining, hailing or full of sunshine. At the time of his retirement, he played in the most games for the club by a Manly player. He was made a life-member in 1962 and as for representative appearances, he played 26 games for New South Wales and 23 for Australia.
He took out the New South Wales Player of the Year Award in 1955 and was named in Manly’s Greatest Ever Team on their 60th anniversary in 2007. At the conclusion of the 1977 season, he became Manly’s Club President in 1978 up until 1987. The club’s best and fairest award has since been renamed the Roy Bull Best and Fairest.


9. Geoff Toovey – One of the smallest players of his era, the champion halfback-turned-hooker played above his size and weight, often putting his body on the line in defence. A local junior who finished his career as the club’s longest serving captain, he copped heavy treatment from his bigger opponents.
Making his debut in 1988, he continued to play above his weight and performed consistently over the next few years for club, state and country, playing regularly for all three. When the 1993 season rolled around, Toovey was made captain but broke his jaw in a trial. After that, he suffered a knee injury and needed a full knee reconstruction but he returned to his best form to lead Manly towards the finals in 1994. 1996 was one of the best in Toovey’s playing career, as he starred for NSW in all three wins, played in the Australian side, won the grand final with Manly and won the Clive Churchill Medal for best on ground.
In 1997, Toovey was shifted around and played hooker, five-eighth and halfback, in a year that saw him pass 200 first-grade games. Toovey was a spirited, determined, nuggety player, that dug deep and never gave up, traits that saw him revered by Manly fans.
He toiled and performed consistently up until his retirement in 2001.
Joining the Manly coaching staff in 2004, Toovey became head coach in 2012 after the departure of previous coach Des Hasler. He remained in that role until halfway through the 2015 season.


10. Rex Mossop – Initially a rugby union player, Mossop joined rugby league in 1952 when he played for English side Leigh. He made his NRL debut in the 1956 season for Manly and became the cornerstone of the forward pack during that time. Playing in two losing grand finals in 1957 and 1959, Mossop went on to play 136 games for the club.
In the 1959 grand final, with rumours that he was suffering from a broken cheekbone, Mossop was targeted by the Dragons players. Eventually, Mossop became so frustrated that he retaliated and stomped on Harry Bath’s head leading to both he and Bath being sent off. Despite his raw, aggressive approach, Mossop won a newspaper’s best and fairest award in 1958.
He was a late bloomer to the international arena, representing Australia at the age of 30 and becoming a dual international in the process.
Mossop went on to play several more years for Manly before retiring in 1963 at the age of 35.


11. Paul Vautin – Graded by Wests Brisbane as an 18-year old, the man nicknamed ‘Fatty’ first played for Manly in reserve grade in 1979 before making his first-grade debut that same year. A fan favourite, Vautin stood out thanks to his bright red hair and he made an immediate impact for the Manly side in the back-row. He played in both the 1982 and 1983 grand finals which Manly were unable to win, but he did enjoy some personal success as he won both the Dally M Player’s Player of the Year and the Representative Player of the Year.
When Fulton became coach in 1985, Vautin was made captain of the Manly team and guided them to victory in the 1987 NSWRL premiership. During his career, Vautin was a mainstay of the Queensland and Australian side playing 22 and 13 games respectively.
His departure from the Manly club was one that disappointed many and Vautin himself departed reluctantly to join the Roosters side.


12. Terry Randall – Those that saw Randall play will know that he was regarded as one of, if not the, hardest tackler in the game at that time. A huge hitter, he acquired the unusual nickname of ‘Igor’, he enjoyed a lengthy 13-season career with the Sea Eagles playing in 208 games for the club.
His debut came in 1970 and as a testament to his toughness and hard-hitting style, Randall did not play a single came from the bench. He was also named as one of the 12 toughest players in rugby league.
Starting out as a centre when he was graded by Manly, he was eventually moved to the back-row in 1972, the same year that Manly won the premiership.
Randall was also a key player in their 1973, 1976 and 1978 successes. In 1978, he was the first player to receive a perfect rating of 10 by Rugby League Week. After his Manly side went down in the 1982 grand final, the hard-man made a swift decision that he would hang up the boots for good. That was the last game of rugby league he ever played.


13. Des Hasler – Known for his free-flowing blonde locks, whilst many are focused on Des Hasler the coach, a lot forget that he was, for a long time, Des Hasler the player. Starting his career with the Penrith Panthers in 1982, a lack of game-time saw him move to the Sea Eagles where he became a household name.
By the time his Manly career was finished, Hasler had played in 255 games for the club and scored 72 tries. Hasler’s start with Manly came in rather fortuitous circumstances while he was a school teacher on the North Shore. He taught the two sons of Manly legend Bob Fulton and after growing tired with the form of current halfback Phil Blake, Bob himself offered Hasler a trial at the club and he was signed in 1984.
He earned an early Australia jersey in 1985 and after a solid season in 1986, he was again selected for the Kangaroos tour. Continuing his good club form for the Sea Eagles in 1987, Hasler was then selected for the NSW Origin side and was the halfback for the club in their grand final success in the same year.
The introduction of Geoff Toovey into the Manly side brought about a significant change for Hasler in his role at the club. Whilst he was still playing halfback regularly, he was being shifted around more often and played a considerable number of games at lock. It was in this season that Hasler became known as more of a utility and not solely a halfback. His utility value was on show throughout his NSW Blues career when in 13 games he played 7 from the bench, 3 at halfback, 2 at five-eighth and 1 at lock.
During the 1993 off-season, Hasler had a stint with Hull FC before returning to Manly. 1995 and 1996 were very good for Manly and for Hasler, who played a key role in their success. Heavy favourites in 1995, Manly fell short at the final hurdle but they made up for it and won the premiership in 1996. Hasler, who started the year at hooker, was then moved to the bench to make way for Jim Sedaris.
This is where his time at Manly ended. Hasler, wanting to play on in 1997, was not given a new contract by Manly and he had one final year in the game as a player with Western Suburbs.
As many know, his Manly career did not end there. Hasler became head coach of the Sea Eagles side in 2004 and led the side to three successive semi-finals in 2005, 2006 and 2007. His premiership success as coach came in 2008, however, when his Manly side cruised to victory against the Storm. The same year, he was named as the RLIF’s Coach of the Year.
He went on to coach the Manly side on more than 200 occasions and enjoyed further premiership success as a coach when his side won the 2011 NRL premiership. Hasler then departed in somewhat shady circumstances in the eyes of some Manly staffers, resulting in his sacking as coach. He now acts as the current Canterbury Bulldogs coach.


14. Alan Thompson – Primarily a five-eighth, the Manly junior was also adept as a halfback and a centre throughout his career. Graded by the Sea Eagles in 1973, he was a member of the club’s reserve grade premiership winning team that year. He then went on to play in both of Manly’s premiership wins in the late 70’s in both 1976 and 1978.
A late bloomer for both Australia and New South Wales, he ended up playing 10 games for the Blues and 7 for the Kangaroos.
1983 saw him rewarded for a good year of captaincy taking out the Dally M Captain of the Year Award.
After successive grand final losses in 1982 and 1983, Thompson played just one more season and retired at the completion of the 1984 season.
He finished his Manly career with 261 games to his name which at the time, was a club record.
He then moved into coaching at the Manly club and took their reserve grade side to the grand final in 1987, a game they did not win but they bounced back in 1988 when they won the reserve grade premiership.
He was appointed as first-grade coach in 1989 but after a year filled with player departures at the end of it and turbulent times on and off the field, he was let go from the role by the Manly board.


15. Max Krilich – A crafty hooker during the 70’s and 80’s for the Sea Eagles, Krilich was a mainstay of the Manly side and the Australian side for much of his career. He captained Australia in 10 successive games and was captain during their 1982 Invincibles tour.
Graded by the Sea Eagles in 1969, Krilich had to initially bide his time at the club with the presence of Fred Jones in the side as the predominant hooker. When the time arose in 1974 for Krilich to impress and make the spot his own, he never looked back.
After the departure of Bob Fulton in 1976, Krilich was named as Manly’s club captain. Leadership and discipline were two key traits during Krilich’s captaincy reign.
In the end, he played 216 games for the club at first-grade level and will be regarded as one of the club’s best ever.


16. John Hopoate – His off-field exploits have always been well known but that aside, the talent of John Hopoate as a genuine footballer was never in doubt. The belief of many is that had he not been involved in so many off-field indiscretions, he could have amounted to so much more.
A proud Tongan, it was Bob Fulton who spotted Hopoate during his days as a Manly Cove junior. Making his debut in 1993, Hopoate was in and out of the side for the first couple of seasons of his career, not becoming a regular until the 1995 season.
He made an immediate impact once he had a chance to start regularly, scoring 11 tries in as many starts before finishing up with 21 tries for the season. His form was so good that he was rewarded with an opportunity to play for the New South Wales Blues. Although Hopoate was having a career-best season, his form and that of his team-mates was not enough to take out the premiership that season.
His try-scoring exploits may have slowed in 1996 but he made up for it in other areas with an improved defensive resolve and technique. Knuckling down, he helped his side produce defence that wins premierships and that materialised, as the Sea Eagles won the 1996 premiership.
He started the 1997 season in a slow fashion as well but be bounced back to score 15 tries throughout the season. Manly again made the grand final but lost to Newcastle.
The beginning of the end for Hopoate and his Manly career came in 1999 when the club fined him for an off-field indiscretion. He was only saved from sacking because his team-mates campaigned for him to stay at the time. In the end, it mattered little, as Hopoate joined the newly formed Wests Tigers outfit.
Not lasting long there, he joined the Northern Eagles before rejoining Manly in 2003. Hopoate failed to get going in his second Manly stint that was littered with controversy and further indiscretions.
From playing in a rugby union game under a false name that breached his NRL contract, to abusing a touch judge, to abusing a 14-year old ball-boy and finally, the incident that broke the camel’s back.
An elbow to the face of then Sharks player, Keith Galloway. This left the Manly club no choice and Hopoate was sacked from the club.


17. Anthony Watmough – A Narrabeen local, Watmough’s career began at the merged entity, the Northern Eagles. His Manly Sea Eagles career started the following year in 2003. A genuine workhorse and a player revered by the fans throughout his Manly career, Watmough was a dangerous line-runner in his early days and capitalised on the good lead-up work from his halves.
A consistent performer for much of his Manly career, Watmough won two premierships during his time ath the club in 2008 and 2011, in which he played a key role.
He was also rewarded with numerous honours in 2007 and 2009, winning the Dally M Second Rower of the Year on both occasions.
As for representative duties, Watmough played two games for City Origin, 14 for New South Wales, 16 for Australia and 2 games for the NRL All-Stars side. Many thought that Watmough would remain at the Sea Eagles for the entirety of his career but it was not to be as speculation was rife that he was not happy and it rang true when he departed the club to join the Parramatta Eels.
He had a short-lived stint there and was forced to retire from the game due to injury.

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