THE RIVALRY: WARRIORS V SEA EAGLES

Manly’s strong support in New Zealand faded following the advent of the Auckland Warriors in 1995. The clubs have contested many notable and thrilling regular season encounters, along with a preliminary final showdown and a memorable grand final – but the Sea Eagles overwhelmingly have the wood on the Warriors historically. Only the Dragons have a better record against the Warriors of the current NRL clubs.

Overall record: Played 31 – Manly won 23, Warriors won 8; Manly scored 720 points, Warriors scored 521 points.
Biggest wins: Manly – 52-6 at Brookvale Oval, 2008; Warriors – 36-10 at Brookvale Oval, 1999.
Longest winning streaks: Manly – 7 matches (2013-17); Warriors – 4 matches (1999-2004).
Finals: Played 2 – Manly won 2.
Grand finals: Played 1 – Manly won 1.
Most appearances: Anthony Watmough (Manly) – 22; Simon Mannering (Warriors) – 19; Jamie Lyon (Manly) – 18; Jason King (Manly) – 17; Brent Kite (Manly) – 16; Steve Matai (Manly) – 16; Ben  Matulino (Warriors) – 16; Matt Ballin (Manly) – 15; Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – 15; Sam Rapira (Warriors) – 14.
Most tries: Brett Stewart (Manly) – 13; Steve Matai (Manly) – 7; Steve Menzies (Manly) – 7; Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – 7; Michael Robertson (Manly) – 6.
Most points: Jamie Lyon (Manly) – 92; Brett Stewart (Manly) – 52; Stacey Jones (Warriors) – 44; Shaun Johnson (Warriors) – 41; Matt Orford (Manly) – 40.

As the Australian premiership’s popularity exploded in New Zealand in the early-1990s, Manly – with legendary former Test coach Graham Lowe, ex-All Blacks fullback Matthew Ridge, and Test representative countrymen Kevin and Tony Iro, Darrell Williams and Adrian Shelford at the club – became a surrogate team for scores of rugby league fans across the Tasman.

The club played Newcastle in the first-ever premiership match staged in New Zealand in 1992, but the announcement later that year that an Auckland-based franchise would be admitted in ’95 saw Kiwi goodwill for the Sea Eagles gradually dissipate. Manly’s decision to axe promising five-eighth Gene Ngamu ahead of the 1994 season after he signed on as a foundation Warrior ensured a feisty rivalry from the outset.

 

1995-98 – Manly too strong for fledgling Warriors

The Super League war blew up just days before Manly’s trip to Auckland to take on the Warriors in Round 5 of the 1995 season. Veteran five-eighth Cliff Lyons – playing opposite Manly cast-off Ngamu – inspired the Sea Eagles to a hard-fought 26-14 victory, while Ridge’s five goals from five attempts also proved vital.

But Ridge signed with the rebel Super League, putting him at odds with the staunchly pro-ARL Sea Eagles, and declared his intentions to return to his home city and play for the Warriors in 1996. The court injunction preventing the Super League competition from going ahead in ’96 put the kybosh on those plans in the short-term, and Ridge sat out the opening eight rounds of the competition – including the Sea Eagles’ 22-10 win over Auckland at Brookvale – before returning to Manly and starring in the club’s premiership triumph.

A 38-12 win in the final round of the inaugural 1998 NRL competition – featuring a Steve Menzies hat-trick – helped the Sea Eagles snatch the last spot in the 10-team finals series.

 

1999-2004 – Warriors dominate Manly and Northern Eagles

The Warriors claimed a belated maiden win against Manly early the following season, 36-10 at Brookvale, and prevailed in five of their six matches against the ill-fated Northern Eagles, the joint venture between Manly and North Sydney.

In 2002, the Warriors carved out an incredible 68-10 win at Mt Smart Stadium – a then-club record victory, and the biggest defeat the Eagles suffered as a merged entity. Fullback Ivan Cleary, who debuted with Manly a decade earlier, scored a club record-equalling 28 points, including 12 goals from as many attempts – the most kicked by any player in a match since Sea Eagles custodian Graham Eadie landed 12 in 1975.

The Eagles upset the minor premiership-bound Warriors 18-16 in the penultimate round of ’02, the club’s first win over the Auckland-based side and its last before the merger dissolved. The Warriors won their first two matches against Manly after the club returned to the NRL in 2003, taking their winning streak over the Sea Eagles to four matches; they have not managed to win consecutive games against Manly since.

 

2004-14 – Solid rivalry culminates in grand final showdown

Manly has taken control of the rivalry over the last decade and a half, winning 20 of the last 24 encounters between the clubs.

The Warriors’ rare wins included a 22-20 upset at Brookvale late in 2005, with club legend Stacey Jones scoring the winning try in his farewell match before joining Super League club Catalans; and a resounding 36-14 win at home in the second-last round of 2007 that the club used to honour the Auckland representative side that defeated Australia, Great Britain and France 30 years earlier, wearing a commemorative blue and white strip.

The Sea Eagles unleashed a merciless beat-down on the Warriors early in 2008, Brett Stewart and Michael Robertson each recording hat-tricks in a 52-6 demolition. But the Warriors snuck into the finals in eighth spot, before knocking off top-four sides Melbourne and Sydney Roosters to set up a preliminary final showdown with Manly.

Preliminary Final, 2008 – Sea Eagles swamp Warriors to set up grand final rematch
A clinical Manly swept to a second straight grand final date with Melbourne via a comprehensive 32-6 victory over the 2008 finals’ fairytale side, the Warriors. An early tryscoring chance to Manu Vatuvei went to ground and the Sea Eagles capitalised, building a 12-0 lead from three tries on the back of outstanding ball control. Manly added another four tries after the break before the Warriors finally landed on the scoreboard through winger Aidan Kirk, the Sea Eagles’ goalkicking proving a problem in a seven-try thrashing at Allianz Stadium.

Round 2, 2009 – Jones turns back the clock in Brookvale upset
Stacey Jones missed the Warriors’ opening-round win over Parramatta, but the mercurial halfback enjoyed a dream comeback against the defending premiers. After spending the previous season with club side Point Chevalier, Jones embarked on an NRL renaissance and inspired the Warriors to a thrilling 26-24 win over Manly. The Warriors overturned 10-0 and 24-16 deficits; the 32-year-old Jones’ chip-and-regather laid on a try for Brent Tate, before his pinpoint bomb allowed Jerome Ropati to equalise in the dying minutes. New recruit Denan Kemp nailed the difficult conversion to snatch the win.

 

Grand Final, 2011 – Sea Eagles crowned premiers after holding off Warriors rally
Manly secured its second premiership in four seasons, but only after holding off a late Warriors comeback in a 24-10 triumph in the 2011 grand final. The Warriors started promisingly, but fell behind 12-2 by halftime courtesy of a Brett Stewart try after an illegal strip was let go, and a brilliant – but controversial – touchdown to rookie halfback Daly Cherry-Evans seconds before the break, which started with an audacious grubber by Glenn Stewart for winger Michael Robertson on Manly’s 20-metre line. Glenn Stewart appeared to put the result beyond doubt at 18-2 in the 57th minute after benefitting from a piece of brilliance from teenager Will Hopoate. But the Warriors’ first-year No.7 Shaun Johnson – playing just his 16th NRL game – sparked a final-quarter comeback, reprising his preliminary final heroics by laying on tries for Manu Vatuvei and Elijah Taylor in the space of six minutes. James Maloney’s conversions both agonisingly shaved the uprights to leave the Warriors eight points adrift, and the Sea Eagles iced a deserved win when Clive Churchill medallist Glenn Stewart deftly put skipper Jamie Lyon over with 80 seconds remaining.

The clubs staged a ripping grand final rematch in Round 1 of 2012, enthralling the 37,502-strong crowd at iconic rugby union venue Eden Park.

Manly led 16-0 early, but the Shaun Johnson-sparked Warriors fought back to trail by just six at halftime. Johnson scored a dazzling solo try, while his third try-assist – and second for Manu Vatuvei – edged the Warriors to within two points with 10 minutes left, but the Sea Eagles overcame the late sin-binning of Matt Ballin to seal a 26-20 win.

Later that season in a Perth thriller, Manly overcame an 18-0 scoreline to win 24-22 – the second week in a row the Warriors had coughed up an 18-point advantage, a unique occurrence in premiership history.

The Sea Eagles piled on four unanswered tries in the space of 20 minutes in the second half, before Jamie Lyon’s late conversion of a freakish Daly-Cherry Evans try stole the match.

A high-quality 18-16 upset at Mt Smart midway through 2013 after overcoming an early 12-0 deficit – breaking a six-match losing streak to Manly – by the Warriors was offset by a 27-12 loss in Gosford in Round 22.

A similar result late in 2014 meant the Sea Eagles had helped foil the Warriors’ finals bid for a third straight season.

Manly has extended its winning streak over the Warriors to a record seven matches, including a golden point victory in the Perth wet in 2016, a 26-22 result in the Western Australia capital the following season after the Sea Eagles had trailed 16-0, and an incredible golden point win at Mount Smart later in 2017.

Cherry-Evans kicked a late levelling field goal before banging over the match-winning one-pointer in extra-time for a 22-21 as Manly marched towards the finals.

THEY PLAYED FOR BOTH CLUBS

Phil Blake: A freakishly-talented try-machine, Blake was a teenaged halfback star for Manly in the early-1980s but never fully realised his potential. After a brief renaissance at Souths, the versatile livewire endured underwhelming stints with Norths, Canberra and St George, but finished his career with a memorable stay as a foundation Warrior. He scored the club’s first-ever try from fullback and crossed for four tries in its maiden win, finishing a 268-game career with 138 touchdowns.

Gene Ngamu: Ngamu was groomed as Cliff Lyons’ long-term five-eighth successor at Manly, but following nine games in 1992-93 (and a New Zealand Test debut in the latter season) he was dumped after signing with the Warriors for their debut season. A veteran of 22 Tests for the Kiwis, Ngamu scored 283 points in 81 games for Auckland – including a club record 28 against North Queensland in 1996.

Matthew Ridge: Young All Blacks star Ridge was lured to Manly in 1990 by Kiwi coach Graham Lowe. One of the most successful converts of all time, the courageous, combative and skilful Ridge established himself as one of the best fullbacks of the 1990s and one of the greatest goal-kickers the game had ever seen. The Super League signee won a grand final with the Sea Eagles in 1996 before belatedly joining the Warriors. But his stint in Auckland was mired in injury and suspension, playing just 37 games in three seasons. However, the 25-Test veteran set a new Kiwis record of 168 points, adding to his tally of 1,331 points in 159 first grade games.

Kevin Iro: A teenaged Test star for New Zealand, blockbusting three-quarter Iro carved out an impressive maiden professional stint at Wigan before reuniting with coach Graham Lowe at Manly, where he scored nine tries in 24 games in 1991-92. After stints with Leeds and Hunter Mariners, Iro showed flashes of brilliance during his brief 1998 stay with the Auckland Warriors, playing 16 NRL games.

Ivan Cleary: An outstanding fullback/centre, Cleary was also one of the game’s ace goalkickers. Following strong stints with Manly – scoring 132 points in 15 games in 1992-93 –  and Norths, he spent three seasons with the Roosters (1996-99) and broke the all-time season pointscoring record with 284 points in ’98. Cleary was an outstanding buy for the Warriors after an injury-plagued initial 2000 season, scoring a club record 242 points in ’02. He retired after their grand final loss to the Roosters that year with a total of 1,363 points in 186 first-grade games to his credit. After a successful grounding as a coach in the Roosters’ lower grades, Cleary took over the Warriors’ NRL post in 2006, taking the club to the 2011 Grand Final before being poached by Penrith. Surprisingly axed by the Panthers at the end of his fourth season in charge, Cleary took over at Wests Tigers midway through 2017.

Joe Galuvao: Auckland-born Galuvao cut his teeth as an explosive centre/fullback for the Warriors, playing 27 first grade games from 1998-2000. But his career took off when he joined Penrith and switched to the back-row, winning a premiership there in 2003 and becoming a Kiwi international. After two seasons at Souths, Galuvao rejuvenated his career with 34 games for Parramatta in 2008-09, culminating in another grand final appearance in the latter season (a loss to Melbourne). The evergreen forward linked with Manly and became part of a select group to play in grand finals with three clubs, celebrating in the Sea Eagles’ win over the Warriors in 2011 decider. Galuvao retired in 2013 after 240 NRL appearances – including 78 for Manly.

Michael Witt: Sharpshooter half Witt scored 176 points in 27 games for Parramatta in 2003-04. After two seasons at Manly, which netted 144 points in 20 games, Witt brought his talents to Auckland and scored 291 points in 43 games for the Warriors, kicking at an astonishing 87.68 percent. Witt switched to rugby union with Otago in 2009, before returning to league with Celtic Crusaders, London Broncos and St George Illawarra.

Feleti Mateo: Gifted ball-player Mateo – primarily a back-rower but sometimes used at five-eighth – played 88 games for Parramatta from 2004-10, before helping the Warriors to a grand final in his first year at the club. Mateo played 95 games in four seasons for the Warriors (at one stage he had played 79 consecutive first grade games) but joined Manly in 2015, making 22 first grade appearances in the maroon and white.

Jeff Robson: After playing just six games across five seasons for Manly, Robson emerged as a surprise hero of Parramatta’s charge to the 2009 grand final. The wily halfback played 61 games for the Eels from 2009-11, before providing excellent value in four seasons as Cronulla’s No.7. His move to the Warriors in 2016 lasted just seven first grade outings, however, as he sought a mid-season release to return to Parramatta. Robson made another 10 appearances for the blue-and-golds before hanging up the boots. 

Lewis Brown: Riccarton Knights (Christchurch) junior Brown was picked up by the Warriors after lower-grade stints in Sydney, making his NRL debut aged 22 in 2009. He played his first Test for the Kiwis in 2011 and scored a now-iconic try in the preliminary final that year against Melbourne that propelled the Warriors into the decider. After 84 games in Auckland, Brown joined former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary at Penrith in 2013 and made 66 first grade appearances across three seasons. The New Zealand Test regular linked with Manly in 2016 and has played 48 games for the club but has been on the outer this year, making just two appearances in the top flight.

Pita Godinet: Christchurch-born livewire Godinet played 18 NRL games for the Warriors from 2011-13, while he also featured in the club’s NSW Cup grand final loss to Canterbury in 2011. After two seasons with Wakefield Trinity, the utility played two first grade games for Manly in 2016 and  featured prominently for ISP outfit Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles last year before earning a contract with Wests Tigers. 

Ligi Sao: A member of the Warriors’ 2011 NYC grand final success, Sao was lured to Manly and played 21 NRL games for the club from 2013-15. The rugged forward returned to Auckland in 2016 and has played 17 games in the top flight for the Warriors to date. 

Kieran Foran: Auckland-born five-eighth Foran became one of the NRL’s genuine superstars after debuting for Manly and breaking into the New Zealand Test side as a 19-year-old in 2009. Part of the Sea Eagles side that defeated the Warriors in the 2011 grand final and a veteran of 147 games for the club, Foran joined Parramatta in 2016 and was installed as captain, but he played just nine games as injuries and off-field problems derailed his campaign. The 20-Test Kiwi joined the Warriors at the end of 2016, playing 17 games last year before returning to Sydney with the Bulldogs.

Shaun Lane: A rookie sensation with the Bulldogs in 2015 – scoring five tries in 14 games – Lane linked with the Warriors midway through 2016 as Faitala-Mariner went in the opposite direction. Lane featured in the under-strength Warriors’ gutsy win over the Dragons, but could not force his way into the first grade 17 again, instead featuring in the club’s InTrust Super Premiership finals campaign before signing with Manly for 2017. He has played 22 games for the Sea Eagles so far, including all 13 games in 2018.

Peta Hiku: An NYC star for the Warriors, Gisborne-born Hiku was snapped up by Manly and scored 28 tries in 61 games for the club from 2013-15, as well as making his Test debut for New Zealand in 2014. He moved to Penrith for an injury-riddled stint but the versatile back returned to the Warriors in 2018 after a short stay with Warrington. The 10-Test Kiwi has played all 12 games for the Warriors so far this season, predominantly at centre but also making starts at fullback and five-eighth.

Blake Green: Journeyman five-eighth Green had uneventful stints with Parramatta (six NRL games as a 20-year-old in 2007), Cronulla and Canterbury, but a four-season Super League stint – which included a Harry Sunderland Trophy win in Wigan’s 2013 grand final success – turned his career around. Green’s two-year stay at Melbourne garnered 50 games and a grand final appearance in 2016, while he was hailed as one of the buys of the year after linking with Manly in 2017, playing 24 games and helping the club to a top-eight return. The wily playmaker’s influence has been equalling striking since joining the Warriors this year, touted as a possible NSW Origin bolter at the age of 31 and playing all 12 games in their 8-4 start to the season.

 

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