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Manly–Warringah Sea Eagles reside on the northern beaches of Sydney. The area is a part of greater Sydney, but often people on the northern beaches are loathed to travel past the Spit Bridge.
I know this from my experience living there.
The Sea Eagles are the team many love to hate. It is a weird relationship that involves hating a club that plays so well and that can be so entertaining to watch. I guess that’s what you get when the reputation holds that the success was bought from other clubs. Not always the case, but let’s not let fact get in the way of a good story.
The clubs sits in a precarious position with the recent salary cap scandal – though it will survive, its reputation will take a battering. Be mindful; it has been through worse.
From the early 70s onwards, the club has generally been a dominant side. They have a rich history, picking up eight titles since their inception in 1947. This number is more than their biggest rival North Sydney, and the Bears were a foundation club. What is more, they still exist, so that is another thing they have over their chief rival.
It was interesting that a shotgun marriage took place at the end of the 1999 season. Manly merging with North Sydney seemed odd. It was like partnering two neighbours who hated each other and forcing them to live together. It was never going to work and so after three years of the Northern Eagles, the Manly – Warringah Sea Eagles returned.
Though as a bit of a nerd I never liked how they stuffed up the chance for Steve Menzies to be a one-club player or that the record of season participation for Manly has three seasons missing – due to technically the Northern Eagles being a different entity. Personally, I still see the Northern Eagles years as years for Manly.
All that nonsense aside, the club faces some troubles. Brookvale Oval is fast becoming unsuitable for NRL standard football. I know people love it, and on a good sunny day the crowd can create a buzz, but it needs an upgrade.
I would like to see a purpose built 20–25,000 seat modern stadium with covering all around. If every seat were positioned close to the action, the atmosphere would be electric and more often. However, dreams of a stadium upgrade are just that – a dream.
Manly averaged 13,640 people to their games in 2017. That is poor. I blame in part the stadium, but regardless the club should be doing better. The organisation only has 12,770 members. That is poor.
It’s the lowest of all the Sydney teams and lies just above the Gold Coast Titans, who have no premierships and have been in existence for just over a decade.
The northern beaches of Sydney has a population of over 250,000 people. To do well now and into the future 10 per cent of this population at a minimum needs to be turned into active fans. Not just your basic supporter, but an active paying member.
Moreover, if they regularly get 10 per cent of this population to attend games than they would sell Brookvale out every home game. If they do these two things, the club may get the stadium upgrade they desire and may once again be the dominant team in Sydney.
The question for the club remains – how do they get 10 per cent of this population to be active and engaged fans? I have a proposal – though no doubt you may think it either too obvious, too wishful or you may have a better suggestion. If you do, I am all ears.
If you’re a Manly fan and you pick up something here, maybe forward it to your club. It may just help.
My suggestions are as follows:
Increase the club’s fan engagement activities. This engagement means having stalls at all major shopping areas in the area trying to persuade people to take up memberships.
Furthermore, be involved in all community charity events, fundraisers and community business groups. Make the club as visible and as connected in the community as possible. The club must network.
Increase the schools’ program. The club needs to have its players and development officers at every primary and secondary school in the region at least one day a week – even if it’s for a single period or lunch time.
Be there to help train students in skills, be if football or health. Just be present. Kids remember this stuff and tell their friends and eventually their kids these tales when they are older. This connection is the team’s way to build a cradle to the grave mentality. A chance to get generations of fans following the Manly–Warringah Sea Eagles.
Junior club clinics – on top of the schools. Embrace all of the rugby league clubs in the area. I know the club made Blacktown Workers its feeder team. Blacktown is a growth area of Sydney for talent, but this connection does nothing to help grow Manly’s supporter base.
Okay, so maybe it does a little, but not what the team needs or require from its base area. Attending local junior clinics can remind those who are active participants that all roads do lead to Brookvale. It’s better to have these junior kids located on the northern beaches instead of another region.
I know Manly is probably doing some of these things already, but not consistently enough to be effective. Achieving this link to the community seems more pertinent for the Sea Eagles at present.
They just look like a club that is struggling for support and in a way their survival. I hope the club does turnaround its fortunes off the field. I hope they do become successful again. I miss hating them.
Manly–Warringah Sea Eagles
First Season 1947
Titles: 8 (1972, 1973, 1976, 1978, 1987, 1996, 2008 andamp; 2011)