1987 World Club Challenge

The 1987 World Club Challenge (also known as the 1987 Foster's World Club Challenge due to sponsorship by brewers, Foster's) was only the second game of its kind to be played between Britain's and Australia's respective domestic rugby league champion clubs. Chairman of Britain's 1986–87 Rugby Football League season champions Wigan, Maurice Lindsay, invited Australia's 1987 NSWRL season premiers, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles to Wigan for the game.[2] After this memorable match, the World Club Challenge was decided to be made an official annual feature on the rugby league calendar.

1987 (1987) Foster's World Club Challenge  ()
12 Total
WIG Wigancolours.svg 44 8
MAN Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg 20 2
Date7 October 1987
StadiumCentral Park[1]
LocationWigan, England
Shaun Wane Wigancolours.svg
RefereesJohn Holdsworth United Kingdom
Broadcast partners
← 1976
1989 →

Originally, Australian Rugby League boss and former long-time Manly club secretary Ken Arthurson proposed that regardless of the outcome, the prize money should be split evenly between the two clubs. However, Wigan chairman Maurice Lindsay convinced Arko and the Manly club that it should be "winner takes all" as it would give the players even more incentive to take the game seriously if there was a bigger money pool for the winners.



The 1986–87 Rugby Football League season was the 105th in the history of English club Wigan. Coached by Graham Lowe and captained by Ellery Hanley, they finished at the top of the 1986–87 Rugby Football League to claim the RFL Championship. They had also won the 1986–87 John Player Special Trophy. By the time of the 1987 World Club Challenge Wigan had already begun playing in the 1987–88 Rugby Football League season.

Manly-Warringah Sea EaglesEdit

The 1987 NSWRL season was the 41st in the history of Australian club the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. Coached by Bob Fulton and captained by Paul Vautin, they finished the regular season as minor premiers, then went on to win the 1987 NSWRL Grand Final against the Canberra Raiders on 27 September 1987 to claim the Premiership.

Match detailsEdit

The match was played at 7:45pm on a dry Wednesday night, 7 October at the Central Park ground in Wigan. A crowd of 36,895 was in attendance for the game, though unofficial estimates from those present put the attendance as high as 50,000.[3] The game was refereed by RFL international referee John Holdsworth. Former four-time Manly premiership winning Fullback Graham Eadie, who at the time was playing in England with 1987 Challenge Cup winners Halifax, was on hand as a match commentator as was dual Manly premiership player (and captain of the 1978 team) and the skipper of the 1982 Invincibles, Max Krilich.

Wednesday 7 October
Wigan   8 – 2   Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

David Stephenson (4)
[4] Tries:

Michael O'Connor (1)
Central Park, Wigan
Attendance: 36,895
Referee: John Holdsworth  
Man of the Match: Shaun Wane  
Wigan Position Manly-Warringah
Sea Eagles
Steve Hampson Fullback Dale Shearer
Richard Russell Wing David Ronson
David Stephenson Centre Darrell Williams
Joe Lydon Centre Michael O'Connor
Henderson Gill Wing Stuart Davis
Shaun Edwards Stand-off Cliff Lyons
Andy Gregory Scrum-half Des Hasler
Brian Case Prop Phil Daley
Nicky Kiss Hooker Mal Cochrane
Shaun Wane Prop Ian Gately
Andy Goodway Second-row Ron Gibbs
Ian Potter Second-row Owen Cunningham
Ellery Hanley (c) Loose forward Paul Vautin (c)
Ged Byrne Bench Mark Brokenshire
Graeme West Bench Jeremy Ticehurst
Ian Gildart Bench Mark Pocock
Ian Lucas Bench Paul Shaw
Graham Lowe Coach Bob Fulton

No tries were scored in what was a closely fought and, at times, spiteful encounter. Michael O'Connor opened the scoring for Manly with a successful penalty kick in only the second minute, which would turn out to be the only time the Sea Eagles scored. Tempers flared as the match went on, punctuated by more penalties and a few unsavoury incidents:

  • Manly forward Ron Gibbs became the first person to be sent off in a World Club Challenge match for illegal use of the elbow when taking out Joe Lydon high after he attempted a drop-goal;
  • An all-in brawl erupted after Dale Shearer was lifted in a tackle then started a punch-up in the ruck with Brian Case;
  • After taking Manly captain Paul Vautin over the touchline, a group of Wigan defenders went on to take him over the fence causing another all-in brawl;
  • Later, when Shearer brought down Lydon in defence, he appeared to step on the Great Britain international's head as he got up after making the tackle.

Amongst all of these incidents Wigan's David Stephenson kicked four penalty goals, which in the end would prove decisive. The score was 8 - 2 in favour of the home side as the final whistle blew,[5] prompting the overjoyed Wigan supporters to flood onto the field to celebrate with the players.

In his biography The Strife and Times of Paul Vautin written by Mike Coleman and released in 1992, the Manly captain told that the Sea Eagles players were so convinced that they would beat Wigan after their Grand Final win over the Canberra Raiders and after the undefeated 1986 Kangaroo Tour, that they treated the trip to England more as a holiday than anything serious and continued celebrating their GF win while there. Vautin and the other Manly players believe that their poor attitude is what ultimately cost them the game. Wigan on the other hand, led by their Kiwi coach Graham Lowe and featuring 11 Great Britain and one New Zealand internationals (compared to 5 Australian and one New Zealand international for Manly), took the game very seriously with pride their main motivation after the Great Britain Lions had been humiliated by the Australian's with 4 straight 3-0 Ashes series losses since the disastrous 1979 Australasian tour and the popular belief that the NSWRL Premiership was superior to the RFL's.


  1. ^ "Wigan move quickly to set up showpeice with Maroons", The Sydney Morning Herald (31 December 1988)
  2. ^ Wilson, Andy (3 October 2010). "Wigan prepare to slay Dragons after crushing St Helens in Grand Final". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  3. ^ AAP (25 January 2001) "World Club Championship Factbox"[dead link] AAP Sports News (Australia)
  4. ^ 1987 WCC - Wigan vs Manly-Warringah
  5. ^ Wilson, Zack (24 February 2011). "Wigan heroes of 1987 to parade before PROBIZ World Club Challenge". code13rugbyleague.com. UK: Code13 Sports Media. Retrieved 26 February 2011.

External linksEdit