|Born||19 October 1961|
Narrandera, New South Wales
|Height||178 cm (5 ft 10 in)|
|Weight||89 kg (14 st 0 lb)|
Cliff Lyons (born 19 October 1961) is an indigenous Australian former international rugby league footballer who played in the 1980s and 1990s. A Clive Churchill Medallist and two-time Dally M Medallist, he made 309 first-grade appearances with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, winning grand finals with them in 1987 and 1996. Lyons also represented New South Wales and Australia, being part of the successful 1990 Kangaroo Tour of Great Britain and France.
Lyons, known as Napper or Cliffy to his mates, started his rugby league career playing Lock forward, but was often moved into the Five-eighth role which is where he was considered to be at his best. It was at five-eighth that Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles coach Bob Fulton started playing Lyons on a permanent basis. Lyons' success with the Sea Eagles, winning premierships in 1987 and 1996, saw him selected in the Manly Sea Eagles 60th Anniversary Dream Team in 2006, being named on the bench of the 17-man line-up. He was notable for his elusive cross-field runs, creating doubt in the minds of defenders and setting up gaps for support players, most famously second-rower Steve Menzies, to run back into.
Born in Narrandera, New South Wales on 19 October 1961, Lyons played junior rugby league with Gundagai Tigers. As a teenager he moved to the Cronulla district as a boarder from Tregear near Mount Druitt. Lyons was graded as a second rower with the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in 1981. He played with the Gundagai Tigers in the Group 9 competition for three seasons, from where he represented Riverina against New Zealand in 1982 and against Great Britain in 1984.
Lyons entered the NSWRFL Premiership for the first time with the North Sydney Bears midway through 1984, following his Riverina coach Greg Hawick. He made his first grade début for the Bears in Round 2 of the 1985 NSWRL season, playing five-eighth, and contributing a field goal in a 15-10 win over the Illawarra Steelers at the Wollongong Showground. He then played in England in the Australian off-season with stays with Leeds (1985–86) and Sheffield Eagles (1986–87).
Lyons moved to the neighbouring team, the Bob Fulton-coached Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles for the 1986 NSWRL season, though he mostly played at lock forward that year due to a broken arm suffered by regular lock and team captain Paul Vautin. This saw Fulton play former Wallaby Mitchell Cox at five-eighth for most of the season with mixed results. Manly finished 4th at the end of the minor round with 14 wins, 9 losses, a draw (plus 2 byes) and were bundled out in a 29-22 loss to Balmain in the Minor Preliminary Semi-final.
With Vautin fully recovered by the start of the 1987 season, Lyons became the Sea Eagles' first choice five-eighth alongside speedy Australian Kangaroos test half back Des Hasler. Lyons made his State of Origin début for New South Wales in Game 2 of 1987 State of Origin series on a wet and muddy Sydney Cricket Ground, beating out Canterbury-Bankstown pivot and 1986 Kangaroo tourist Terry Lamb as the Blues' five-eighth at the end of the representative career of Brett Kenny, and playing opposite the King of Origin football, Australian and Queensland captain Wally Lewis. Lyons also played in 1987's exhibition state of Origin match in Los Angeles. Manly went on to record a new club record of 12 straight wins during the season which culminated in the 1987 Grand Final against the Canberra Raiders. Lyons scored the only try of the first half against the Raiders after a strong 25m run from a scrum win, but it was his damaging runs that cut holes in the Raiders defence that saw him win the Clive Churchill Medal as man of the match. Following the grand final victory he travelled with Manly to England for the 1987 World Club Challenge against the 1986–87 English champions, Wigan. In front of an official 36,895 fans at Wigan's Central Park (though many in attendance believe the crowd to be closer to 50,000), Wigan stunned the Winfield Cup premiers 8-2 in a try-less game.
Despite being born and bred in the country, Lyons made the first of three appearances for City Origin in 1988 in the annual City vs Country Origin game. He appeared in two games of the 1988 State of Origin series, vying for the five-eighth position with Terry Lamb. At the end of the 1988 NSWRL season, Lyons made his international début when he was selected on the bench for a Rest of the World team that narrowly lost 30-28 to Great Britain at Headingley in Leeds, England. Joining Lyons in the side were his Manly teammates Dale Shearer (Fullback), Michael O'Connor (Centre) and Noel "Crusher" Cleal (Second-row), as well as fellow Australians Steve Ella (5/8), Allan Langer (Halfback) and Sam Backo (Prop). During the 1988–89 Rugby Football League season Lyons played at stand-off, and was awarded the White Rose Trophy as man of the match in Leeds' 33-12 victory over Castleford in the 1988 Yorkshire Cup Final at Elland Road, Leeds on Sunday 16 October 1988.
Lyons' ability to set up tries for his support players with his unpredictable weaving runs saw him consistently win player awards, culminating in his 'breakthrough' season in 1990, age 29. After winning the coveted Gold 'Dally M' award for Player of the Year in the regular club season he received his call-up to the Australian team on the 1990 Kangaroo Tour of Great Britain and France. Australia lost the first Test 19-14 at Wembley Stadium (the Kangaroos first loss on English soil since 1978), and Lyons was thrust into the second Test side at Old Trafford. He repaid the faith shown in him by his former club coach Fulton by finishing one of the best team tries ever seen in a Test as Australia kept The Ashes alive with 14-10 win over Great Britain. Lyons then produced a solid display in the third Test as Australia retained The Ashes with a resounding 14-0 win at Elland Road.He then went on to play in both winning Tests against France, being named man-of-the-match for the 34-10 second test win at the Stade Gilbert Brutus in Perpignan.
Lyons again played for NSW in the 1991 State of Origin series, but lost his test place to a returning Wally Lewis for the first test of the 1991 Trans-Tasman Test series against New Zealand, and then was passed over in favour of North Sydney pivot Peter Jackson for the final two tests. At the end of the 1991 NSWRL season Manly finished in 2nd place behind eventual premiers Penrith in the minor round, but bombed out in straight sets in the finals with losses to North Sydney and Canberra. Lyons was then selected for the Australian national team for the 1991 Kangaroo tour of Papua New Guinea, regaining his test spot due to an injury to Jackson. On tour he played in both test matches for Australia against the Papua New Guinea Kumuls, scoring a try in the first test in Goroka in which he partnered Manly teammate Geoff Toovey in the halves, but was relegated to the bench for the final test against the Kumuls in Port Moresby.
Cliff Lyons was particularly in his element in rugby league sevens competitions, winning the 'Player of the Competition' during Manly's 1994 Sevens' win and captaining an Aboriginal 'Dream Team' in the 1996 competition. Despite winning his second Gold 'Dally M' award in 1994, as well as becoming Manly's first Rugby League Week "Player of the Year" since his coach Bob Fulton had won in 1975 (and the club's last as of 2016), he missed selection for that year's Kangaroo tour at the age of 33 in favour of younger players.
Lyons resisted a lucrative offer from the Western Reds to stay with the Sea Eagles in 1995, and went on to play in three consecutive grand finals from 1995–97, winning his second premiership in 1996 with a 20-8 win over St. George. At the end of the 1998 season, in which he was mainly used off the bench, Lyons reluctantly retired after not being offered a contract.
In January 1999 Lyons was playing for Warringah in a rugby sevens competition, but following the Sea Eagles' disastrous start to the 1999 NRL season, he made a comeback with the club, passing the 300 first-grade game mark late in the season. He became the oldest player in the NRL at 37 years and 313 days,and also retired with Manly's club record for most first-grade appearances. At the end of the year, Lyons was named Aboriginal Sportsman of the Year (tied with Nicky Winmar) and captained Australian Aborigines in an unofficial 'test' against Papua New Guinea in Cairns.
In the year 2000, Lyons was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his contribution to Australia's international standing in rugby league. Cut from the newly formed Northern Eagles at year's end, he signed with Umina and captain-coached the Central Coast club in 2001, the year he celebrated his 40th birthday.
Lyons made a cameo appearance in the 2006 film, Footy Legends .
Lyons' 309 first grade games for Manly is the club record. Into his 40s Cliff's career continued with the Hornsby Lions, and more recently the Narraweena Hawks.
In 2018, Lyons was inducted in the National Rugby League Hall of Fame.
Having coached Narraweena to consecutive premierships in the Manly A-Grade competition, Lyons joined moved into the NSW Cup as coach of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles side just before the 2012 season.
After leading Manly to a 6th-place finish in the 2012 NSW Cup season, Lyons was replaced as Manly's NSW Cup coach for the 2013 season by former Sea Eagle Luke Williamson.
Trent Barrett is an Australian professional rugby league football coach who is the head coach of the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs in the NRL and a former professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s.
Jamie Lyon, also known by the nickname of "Killer", is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer who played in the 2000s and 2010s. An Australian international and New South Wales State of Origin representative goal-kicking centre, he played his first club football for the Parramatta Eels before joining Super League with English club St. Helens, with whom he won the 2006 Championship and Challenge Cup titles and regarded as saints best ever centre. Lyon then returned to the NRL with Manly Warringah, winning the 2008 and 2011 grand finals with them. Originally a five-eighth, he switched to the centre position in 2009 and was regarded as one of the best centres in the game, winning the Dally M Centre of the year in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014, RLIF Centre of the Year in 2011 and 2013, and Dally M Captain of the Year in 2012 and again in 2014 individually. In 2016, he became the fourth player to score 100 tries and 500 goals.
Paul "Fatty" Vautin is an Australian football commentator and formerly a professional rugby league footballer, captain and coach. He has provided commentary for the Nine Network's coverage of rugby league since joining the network in 1992 and has also hosted The Footy Show since its beginnings in 1994 opposite co-host Peter Sterling, until 2017. An Australian Kangaroos test and Queensland State of Origin representative lock or second-row forward, Vautin played club football in Brisbane with Wests, before moving to Sydney in 1979 to play with Manly-Warringah, whom he would captain to the 1987 NSWRL premiership. He also played for Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, and in England for St Helens.
Dale Shearer, also known by the nickname of "Rowdy", is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1980s and 1990s. A Queensland State of Origin and Australian international representative of Aboriginal heritage, he played club football in Queensland, New South Wales and England. His playing career included a NSWRL Premiership win with Manly-Warringah in 1987 and a Rugby League World Cup Final win in 1988. Ten years after his retirement, Shearer was still the all-time top try-scorer in State of Origin and he was named on the wing of the Indigenous Australian team of the century.
Robert Fulton, also nicknamed "Bozo", was an Australian international rugby league footballer, coach and later commentator. Fulton played, coached, selected for and has commentated on the game with great success at the highest levels and has been named amongst Australia's greatest rugby league players of the 20th century. As a player Fulton won three premierships with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in the 1970s, the last as captain. He represented the Australian national side on thirty-five occasions, seven times as captain. He had a long coaching career at the first grade level, taking Manly to premiership victory in 1987 and 1996. He coached the Australian national team in thirty-nine Tests. He was a New South Wales State selector and a national selector. He was a radio commentator with 2GB at the time of his death in 2021, aged 73. In 1981, he was selected as one of the initial four post-war "Immortals" of the Australian game and, in 2008, he was named in Australia's team of the century.
David "Cement" Gillespie is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer who played as a second-row and prop forward in the 1980s and 1990s. Gillespie played for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Western Suburbs Magpies, Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, New South Wales and for the Australian national side.
Jim Serdaris is an Australian former professional rugby league. He played for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Western Suburbs Magpies, Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. He also represented New South Wales and played one game for the Australian national side. He primarily played at hooker.
Dave Brown, is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1980s. An Australian international and Queensland State of Origin representative forward, he played his club football in the Brisbane Rugby League for the Souths Logan Magpies under the coaching of Wayne Bennett. He also played in the NSWRL for Eastern Suburbs and Manly-Warringah.
Noel Harvey "Crusher" Cleal is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer who also had a successful coaching career. A destructive second-row for the Manly Sea Eagles, he also represented New South Wales in the State of Origin Series and the Australian national rugby league team.
Desmond John Hasler is an Australian professional rugby league coach who is the head coach of the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles in the NRL, and a former professional rugby league footballer.
Geoffrey "Geoff" Toovey, also known by the nickname of "Toovs" or "Tooves", is the former head coach of the Bradford Bulls and former professional rugby league footballer. Toovey played halfback for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, then played as a hooker later in his career at the Northern Eagles. He played 286 first-grade matches in all, and captained Manly to the 1996 ARL premiership and the 1995 and 1997 grand finals. He played in 13 international matches for Australia between 1991 and 1998. Toovey is the former head coach of Manly-Warringah.
Kenneth Richard "Arko" Arthurson AM is an Australian rugby league football identity. Affectionately known as "The Godfather of Manly", he played, coached and was later an administrator at the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles club in the New South Wales Rugby League premiership. Later he ran the NSWRL, and then the Australian Rugby League during the 1990s' Super League war, resigning in 1997 as part of the peace process for creating the unified National Rugby League.
The 1987 NSWRL season was the 80th season of professional rugby league football in Australia. Thirteen clubs competed for the New South Wales Rugby League premiership's J J Giltinan Shield and Winfield Cup during the season, which culminated in the grand final between the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles and the Canberra Raiders who were the first club ever from outside Sydney to appear in a premiership decider. This season, NSWRL teams also competed for the 1987 National Panasonic Cup.
The history of the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles dates back to 1932 when the Manly-Warringah Junior Rugby Football League was founded. In 1947 the New South Wales Rugby Football League included two additional teams: Manly-Warringah DRLFC and Parramatta DRLFC. The new club adopted the nickname "Sea Eagles" and went on to compete in every season of top-level rugby league until merging with the nearby North Sydney Bears to form the Northern Eagles club at the end of 1999. After three years the joint-venture team was disbanded with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles returning as a sole entity once more to the National Rugby League.
Frank Stanton, also known by the nickname of "Biscuits", is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1960s, a successful club, and national representative coach in the 1970s and 1980s. His playing and club coaching career was with the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. He enjoyed success as coach of the Australian national side from 1978 to 1984, being at the helm in the period when the Kangaroos began to consistently dominate the other rugby league playing nations.
Alan Thompson is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer and coach. He played for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) competition from 1973-1984 and coached the club in 1989. He primarily played at Five-eighth.
Steve Martin is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1970s and 1980s, and coached in the 1990s. He was a representative player at both state and international levels and played in the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) competition for Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, and the Balmain Tigers. Martin primarily played in the halfback position.
Mal Cochrane is an Indigenous Australian former professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1980s and 1990s. He played for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in the New South Wales Rugby League premiership. Cochrane primarily played at hooker.
Jake Trbojevic is an Australian professional rugby league footballer who plays as a lock and prop for the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles in the NRL and Australia at international level.
The 1987 Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles season was the 41st in the club's history since their entry into the then New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership in 1947.