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1978 grand final rewind: Sea Eagles crush Sharks in another replay

In the latest of a fresh series of looks back at the grand finals of yesteryear, we revisit the titanic struggle between Manly and Cronulla that stretched over two matches.

NRL.com has gone into the vault to find footage of the grand finals from the pre-NRL era dating back to 1966 and will be showcasing these games, including a full replay, a mini version of each game, match highlights and great moments from these memorable encounters.

The 1978 grand final was just the second time a drawn decider spawned a replay. The first and only other time the trophy has been decided in a rematch was the previous year when the Dragons flogged minor premiers Parramatta 22-0 to claim their 14th premiership a week after the two teams had fought out a 9-9 stalemate.

Match Highlights: Sharks v Sea Eagles

Manly were unquestionably the dominant team of the 70s with four premierships, a runner-up finish, four minor premierships and nine successive finals appearances while the Sharks were playing their second grand final in only their 12th season.

Cronulla qualified for the decider at the SCG and the week off by beating minor premiers Wests while the Sea Eagles, who finished the regular season in third place on for-and-against behind the Sharks, also needed a replay to get past Parramatta in the semi-final before eliminating the Magpies in straight sets.

The Sharks were missing key forward Dane Sorensen, who had been sent off and suspended in the final round, and captain Greg Pierce, marched in the major semi, but the young side ripped into the more seasoned Sea Eagles and shot out to a 4-0 lead.

Match Highlights: Sharks v Sea Eagles

Manly worked their way back into the match thanks to their tireless forwards, potent winger Tom Mooney and fullback Graham Eadie to lead 11-9 late before a Steve Rogers penalty goal tied it up again.

The Sea Eagles were playing their sixth game in 24 days when 33,552 fans turned up at the SCG for the Tuesday rematch, the players forced to back up midweek because the Kangaroos squad was departing for the UK the following weekend.

Manly went into the clash unchanged while Cronulla had to make a further four changes and the cohesion helped the maroon-and-whites ensure their march through the finals had a happy ending.

They raced to a 15-0 half-time lead through tries to Eadie and Russell Gartner and added just a field goal in the second half to triumph 16-0 with Cronulla failing to mount any sort of comeback as rain lashed the field.

Full Match Replay: Sharks v Sea Eagles - Grand Final Replay, 1978

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Play of the day

Russell Gartner came into the replay on three days' rest and nursing a dodgy hamstring, damaged in the preliminary final win over Wests, but was full of running as he inflicted a pair of gut punches to Cronulla’s hopes in the first half.

While his first try was a case of clever support play the second showcased the athletic centre’s dazzling pace.

Manly won a scrum deep in their own territory and half Steve Martin started the move with a diving pass from the scrum base to pivot Alan Thompson, who moved the ball to Graham Eadie as he chimed into the backline.

Full Match Replay: Sharks v Sea Eagles - Grand Final, 1978

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The fullback passed immediately to burly centre Steve Knight who drew three defenders and lobbed a basketball pass over the top to Gartner as he was crunched by centres Steve Rogers, Dave Chamberlin and stand-in fullback Rick Bourke.

His centre partner took care of the rest, scything through the enormous gap created by Knight and embarking on a 60-metre run to the line with Tom Mooney in support and Sharks pivot Martin Raftery in futile pursuit.

Commentator Rex Mossop marvelled at the turn of pace displayed by a man who made light of a left thigh swathed in bandages to "run like the clappers of hell".

Extended Highlights: Sharks v Sea Eagles

Best Player

Graham Eadie was deservedly named man of the match after being the most influential player in not only the replay but also in the preceding draw. Eadie kicked four from six, carved up the Sharks with his powerful running and snuffed out multiple Cronulla raids with brutal last-line defence in the first encounter.

In the replay, Eadie was a one-man wrecking crew.

His blindside raids produced one try for the fullback, another for Russell Gartner and he played a role in the centre’s second. While his goal-kicking radar was off (three from eight attempts) Eadie’s field goal represented the only points of the second half.

The Quote

"We've got no serious injuries," said Sea Eagles coach Frank Stanton after the drawn grand final. "But they're all very sore."

"I'll try and get them to have Monday off work and then I'll go about freshening them up once again.”

Extended Highlights: Sharks v Sea Eagles

The what-if moment

In the dying minutes of the first grand final and the scores level at 11-11, Steve "The Prince of Centres" Rogers lined up an attempt at field goal from just outside the quarter line in the centre of the field.

With no Sea Eagles player able to get near him Rogers was able to get boot to ball on a kick that drifted just wide.

He said later: "I thought it was going to hit the post. I hit it OK but it swung wide just short of the post."

Manly's Ian Martin and Sharks forward Eric Archer.
Manly's Ian Martin and Sharks forward Eric Archer. ©NRL Photos

Unsung hero

Ferocious defender Terry "Igor" Randall, once named as one of the 12 toughest players in rugby league, made an out-of-character contribution in the 11-all draw.

It was Randall, reportedly needled up to play in each of Manly’s finals matches in 1978, who took the pass one pass off the ruck in front of the posts and put up the towering bomb that led to the Sea Eagles’ only try of the match to Tom Mooney.

The following year

Manly’s 11-year finals streak was snapped the following season when they finished seventh. They improved to sixth in 1980 but in the five-team finals era that again saw them miss out.

Cronulla finished third and made the minor semi-final in 1979 before slumping to ninth place in the 1980 season. They had to wait until 2016 to finally win a premiership.