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The best Manly-Warringah players who never played representative football


As with previous articles in this series, I will attempt to put together a quality team for each NRL club made up solely of players since 1980 who never went beyond club level.

The criteria for selection is:
– No representing at senior level: internationals, State of Origin, Prime Ministers XIII, City vs. Country or All Stars.
– Current players are excluded.
– Players are only eligible for the club they played the most first grade games for.
– For players who straddle the 1970s and 1980s, 30 games after since 1980 is generally the cut-off to qualify.

This is a solid side but maybe lacking some standouts and some depth, due to Manly regularly stocking up on rep players.

Note: This team includes the ill-fated Northern Eagles.

Fullback

Brendon Reeves (99 matches) – 1999-2003. 43 wins 54 losses. 37 tries 19 goals.
Brendon Reeves played three solid seasons with the Illawarra Steelers before joining Manly in 1999. He stayed on for the Northern Eagles era, where he became the franchise’s top try scorer, before having a final season for Manly in 2003.

In retirement Reeves has coached in country football as well as NSW Universities. He has also had a teaching career and it appears that some enterprising students may have been at his Wikipedia page “He has also become a teacher at Camden High School, where he is known for his impeccable badminton skills and stunning haircut. Brendon Reeves is commonly referred to as a “sick lad” by his CHS admirers”.

Wings

Tom Mooney (163) – 1975-1981. 98 wins 58 losses. 83 tries. 15 finals 7 wins.
Manly great Tom Mooney is one of those players that was predominantly from the 1970s, 44 games across 1980-1981 gets him in this side.

Mooney played on the wing for the Sea Eagles from 1975 after coming into grade with Souths in 1972. He scored 29 tries in three seasons at the Rabbitohs and played in their 1972 and 1974 finals appearances.

After joining the Sea Eagles, Mooney showed great durability, never playing less than 22 games in a season and only once scoring less than 9 tries for the year. He twice scored four tries in a match, was the competition’s top try scorer in 1976 and 1979 and is currently sixth on the club’s all-time try scoring list.

Mooney appeared in five finals series for the club, including their grand final victories in 1976 and 1978. In the latter year Mooney scored Manly’s only try as the game finished at 11 apiece, before they comfortably won the replay three days later.

Mooney’s final year was 1981 where, after a lean run during the season, he scored seven tries in the last six matches as the club remained undefeated to propel themselves into the finals, eventually losing to Newtown.

In 1990 Mooney was named on the wing of the club’s greatest ever team, although by the 2006 version he and Les Hanigan had lost their spots to Ray Branighan (who pushed Michael O’Connor out onto the wing) and Ken Irvine.

In retirement Mooney built and ran a series of pubs in Byron Bay, some of which he sold last year for a rumoured price of around $80 million.

Stuart Davis (97) – 1981-1989. 59 wins 34 losses. 39 tries. 7 finals 3 wins.
Apart from a brief dalliance with the Roosters for one first grade game in 1983, Stuart “The Bug” Davis was a regular for Manly throughout the 1980s.

It is a testament to his tenacity that the small but elusive winger was the first choice in Round 1 for only 3 out of 8 seasons, yet played in five finals series, including the club’s 1987 grand final victory.

In a prequel to the days of Roy and HG, Rex Mossop called Davis “The 2 Iron with Ears”.

In 2016 Davis won the silvertails.net footy tipping competition, so he must still follow some football, from his home in Mudgee.

Centres

David Ronson (102) – 1985-1991. 68 wins 33 losses. 34 tries 2 goals. 7 finals 3 wins.

David Ronson was a winger who morphed into a centre later in his career and played on the flank in the Sea Eagles 1987 grand final victory. Ronson played over 100 games for the club including five finals series. In 1987 He scored Manly’s only try in their 10-6 Major Semi final win over Easts.

After leaving the Sea Eagles, Ronson played a season in England for Hull FC, making the semi finals of the Challenge Cup. After a three year absences Ronson popped up for Balmain in 1994 but only played a few games before hanging up the boots.

Michael Blake (66) – 1979-1984. 44 wins 21 losses. 24 tries. 4 finals 2 wins.

The older, less celebrated Blake, Michael played in consecutive grand finals for Manly in 1982 and 1983. After debuting in 1979, his best year was probably 1982 where he scored 11 tries including three doubles, one of which was in the Major Preliminary Semi final win over North Sydney.

Blake left Manly for Canberra in 1985 but failed to make an impact. He moved to Souths in 1987 and was a first grade regular as they made it through to the semi finals, despite scoring exactly zero tries in 19 matches for the season. It’s not often a centre has to do the nude run, but there you go.

Blake also played for Manly in 1983 as they beat a combined Brisbane side in the midweek knock out competition.

There were some quality players around at the time. Manly boasted Graham Eadie, Kerry Boustead, chris Close, John Ribot, Phil Blake, Phil Sigsworth and Alan Thompson in a stacked backline with Michael Blake the odd one out.

Their forwards included Ray and Dave Brown, Paul Vautin, Noel Cleal and Ian Schubert. The salary cap was not really a thing in those days!

They came up against a Brisbane side including Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, Gene Miles, Colin Scott, Greg Conescu, Bryan Neibling and Wally Fullerton-Smith and won 23-14.

Five-eighth

Chris Bailey (46) – 2009-2010. 24 wins 22 losses. 7 tries. 2 finals 2 losses.

Not actually a lot of pivots to choose from here. Chris Bailey played two seasons with Manly in 2009-10, with the club reaching the finals both years. Bailey also played in the back row and from the bench.

His main claim to fame in the NRL was scoring a first half hat trick when he was at Newcastle in 2008, but still losing 38-26 to Wests.

Bailey’s first ever match for Manly was actually in the 2009 World Club Challenge, playing five eight as they defeated Leeds 28-20.

Bailey left Manly for the UK and went on to have a successful career with the London Broncos and Huddersfield, playing over 100 matches and being selected for the Exiles in 2013.

The Sea Eagles celebrate the try scored by Keith Titmuss

(Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)

Half

Michael Monaghan (95) – 2004-2007. 53 wins 42 losses. 17 tries 2 goals. 6 finals 2 wins.

Michael Monaghan played over 200 top level matches across the NRL and English Super League. He started with Canberra in 2001 as a bench player and half and played in the clubs’ 2002 and 2003 finals campaigns.

Monaghan joined the Sea Eagles in 2004 and immediately became the club’s first choice halfback. After two years in this role, Monaghan switched to hooker to accommodate Matt Orford and the club played in consecutive finals series, culminating in their 2007 grand final appearance, losing to Melbourne.

While at the Sea Eagles, Monaghan also was awarded the Ken Stephens medal in 2006 for outstanding service to the community.

Monaghan left Manly at the end of 2007 for the English Super League and played the next seven seasons for Warrington, again starting as a halfback and later moving to hooker. He scored the final try from hooker and won the coveted Lance Todd trophy as man of the match as Warrington won the 2009 Challenge Cup final.

Monaghan was halfback as the club went back to back in 2010. A third title followed in 2012 making Monaghan one of the most successful modern day Australians in the English competition. The club also reached consecutive Super League grand finals in 20012-2013.

Monaghan has returned to Australia and works for the Sea Eagles as a pathways / specialist coach.

Lock

Luke Williamson (148) – 2002-2008. 80 wins 68 losses. 16 tries 85 goals. 6 finals 2 wins. 2007 grand final.

“The Cougar” Luke Williamson arrived at the ill-fated Northern Eagles in 2002 and ended up staying with Manly for another six seasons, helping rebuild the club and playing in the 2007 grand final.

Williamson debuted with Super League creation the Adelaide Rams in 1997 as an 18 year old. When the club folded after 1998 he moved on to Canberra where he spent three seasons in the centres or on the wing.

After having a lean year in 2001, Williamson moved to the Northern Eagles as a five eighth and scored nearly 100 points for the club. When the Sea Eagles returned in 2003 Williamson stayed on and moved into the forwards becoming a mainstay at the club.

He played finals in 2005, 2006 and 2007, scoring a try in the club’s 2007 Preliminary final victory over North Queensland, before losing to Melbourne in the grand final. Williamson played most of the 2008 season in first grade before missing the club’s grand final victory due to injury.

Williamson left the club at the end of 2008 and played two seasons in England for Harlequins. He coached Manly’s NSW Cup team for a number of years and now works for the NRL.

In missing the 2008 grand final: “If there’s one medal I did win though, I was best on ground in post-match celebrations. And I’ll take that one with a bit of pride.”

Second Row

John Jones (85) – 1989-1994. 49 wins 33 losses. 15 tries. 5 finals 1 win.

John “Jughead” Jones was a rugged forward who played for Manly in the first half of the 1990’s. After a debut in 1989 he was a first grade regular for four seasons, participating in the finals in 1990, 1991 and 1993. His season in 1992 was of such quality that he finished second behind Brisbane’s Allan Langer in the Rothmans Medal.

After a year out of the top grade in 1994, Jones joined the newly formed South QLD Crushers, playing 24 games across three years.

Later on Jones gained some notoriety for dating former Big Brother Contestant Reggie Sorensen.

Mark Pocock (61) – 1985-1989. 34 wins 27 losses. 1 try. 4 finals 2 wins.

Joining Jones in the backrow is 1987 grand final winner Mark Pocock. Pocock came off the bench in Manly’s 18-8 victory over Canberra. All up Pocock played five seasons with the Sea Eagles after spending time with Nerang in the Gold Coast Competition and Norths in the Brisbane Rugby League. He played in finals for Manly from 1986 to 1988.

He also spent the 1987 off season with Barrow in the English 2nd Division.

Pocock only scored one career try for the Sea Eagles, in game 33 of 61.

Props

Mark Bryant (93) – 2005-2008. 58 wins 35 losses. 3 tries. 7 finals 5 wins.

Cootamundra-born Mark Bryant played exactly 100 games in the NRL, mainly as a bench middle forward. After a handful of games for Canberra, Bryant joined Manly in 2005.

Between 2006 and 2008 the durable Bryant played at least 25 games each season and was on the bench for the club’s 2007 grand final loss to Melbourne and their amazing 2008 thrashing of the same opponent in the 2008 decider.

Bryant parted ways with Manly after that grand final and spent the next 5 seasons with Celtic Crusaders and then London Broncos in the English Super League. Bryant lost 70,000 pounds during the demise of the Crusaders as the 50% of his wages supposedly held in a pension fund never materialised.

These days Bryant is still based on the northern beaches, where he is a real estate agent.

David Hosking (63) – 1990-1993. 37 wins 24 losses. 1 try. 4 finals 1 win.

After spending some time in lower grades at Manly, David “The Mule” Hosking went to South Sydney from 1987 but never cemented a place in their top side. He was playing for Bankstown Greyhounds when picked up by Manly in 1990 and he went on to play 23 matches in his first season, all as starting prop.

Hosking played finals for the club in 1990 and 1991 before leaving after 1993. He then spend a season in England with Hull Kingston Rovers before retiring.

Hosking scored a grand total of one try in his seven year NSWRL career. His son Zac is currently contracted to the Broncos.

Hooker

David O’Donnell (81) – 1989-1994. 51 wins 28 losses. 4 tries. 4 finals 1 win.

David O’Donnell played 6 years in first grade for the Sea Eagles as a hard working hooker. He played in the club’s finals campaigns in 1990, 1993 and 1994. After leaving the club he spent a year with the Roosters, then a season in the English second division with London before finishing off with a season with Paris St Germain in the Super League in 1997.

O’Donnell scored more tries in 21 games in the Super League than in his entire 81 game stint for Manly.

O’Donnell later joined the board at Manly league club and is currently the Chairman.

Bench

Matt Dunford (81) – 1990-1996. 53 wins 27 losses. 7 tries. 4 finals 4 losses.
Matt Dunford played six seasons for the Sea Eagles in the first half of the 1990’s, appearing in finals in 1990, 1991 and 1994. After leaving Manly Dunford spent two seasons with the London Broncos. Donford’s son Zane was signed by Canberra for 2022.

Simon Booth (115) – 1977-1982. 65 wins 44 losses. 30 tries. 10 finals 5 wins. 1978 grand final.
Simon Booth played eight seasons in the NSWRL, for Manly and then Balmain. Booth scored two tries in the Sea Eagles’ 1978 finals campaign, along the way to a premiership after a grand final replay against Cronulla.
Scott Donald (68) – 2003-2005. 26 wins 42 losses. 48 tries.

Winger Scott Donald was a prolific try scorer for Manly in three seasons, including topping the club’s try scoring for 2003 with 21 tries in 24 matches. He had previously spent five seasons for North QLD and Parramatta without becoming a regular first grader. That all changed when he arrived at the Sea Eagles, despite the club not have a particularly successful period.

Donald spent a very successful five years with Leeds in England, scoring 93 tries for them in just 145 matches, for a grand total of 157 tries at top level. He won a hat trick of premierships with Leeds from 2007 to 2009, scoring a try in the 2007 grand final and he scored again as Leeds defeated Melbourne in the 2008 World Club Challenge. He was name in the Super League Dream Team twice.
Shayne Dunley (87) – 2001-2007. 40 wins 47 losses. 16 tries.

Halfback turned hooker Shayne Dunley was pretty much a specialist bench player, and appeared for four clubs for a decade from 1998 to 2007, including the Northern eagles and Manly. Dunley appeared in finals for the Sea Eagles in 2006 and 2007. Dunley played in the final seasons for both Balmain and the Northern Eagles.





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