THE man who discovered Jamie Buhrer has hailed the Blues bolter as a young Steve Menzies.
The similarities are uncanny. There's the trademark headgear, the time spent in Manly's back row and the boyish looks which belie their age. Sea Eagles recruitment guru Dave Warwick, who first laid eyes on Buhrer at the Combined Catholic College State trials in 2008, said there are obvious parallels.
''I see him as an up-and-coming Beaver,'' he said. ''There's the headgear and that sort of stuff. He tends to look after himself in his application of the game and Beaver was like that. He knows where to run a good hole. There's that good anticipation and it's complemented by his leg speed. He reminds me of Steve Menzies.''
For Buhrer, there is no bigger rap. ''Obviously there's a similarity with the headgear and that gets everyone thinking,'' he said.
''If I can be mentioned in the same mould as Steve Menzies, I'd take it every day of the week. He's definitely one of the best for Australia, NSW and Manly. And he's still going today and still playing quality football. To be compared to someone like him, I won't shy away from it.''
As a young Manly fan growing up in Parramatta territory, Buhrer saw Menzies as one of his inspirations. Other players he looked up to were Geoff Toovey, now his coach, and Ben Kennedy. Ironically, these days the man he pipped for a Blues jersey is one of those he looks to.
''I try to model my game around my current Manly teammates like Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart,'' Buhrer said.
The Patrician Brothers Blacktown product has already showcased leadership qualities, having captained Kieran Foran and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves at NYC level. That is why Manly assistant coach David Penna has earmarked him as a future captain of the Sea Eagles.
''He might have to fight Kieran Foran for it, but he certainly has the qualities, for sure,'' Warwick said. ''His composure and ability to be a coachable person, they're the traits you look for. Hopefully having him at the Sea Eagles forever, it's such a positive for the club.''
Buhrer has crammed more into a 40-game career than most seasoned veterans. There's already a premiership ring and a Blues jersey. He was also one of the last men to line up against Darren Lockyer when he slotted in at pivot during the Brisbane legend's final regular-season game at Suncorp Stadium.
''I'm only 22 with two full years of first grade and I've achieved goals that I wanted to achieve in my career,'' Buhrer said.
''But I'm only young and I'm going to continue to learn and develop … Being in camps like this and learning from some of the best players in the world is only going to help me in that journey.''
Perhaps the only NRL player possessing a black belt in karate, he is ready to play the super-sub role perfected by Blues mainstays Craig Wing and Kurt Gidley.
''I've got to be ready for whatever comes my way,'' he said. ''Whenever I come on, whether it be at hooker or the forwards, I've got to step up.''
How Jamie Buhrer slipped Parramatta Eels net
PARRAMATTA could have kept Jamie Buhrer for the price of an SG Ball jersey.
That was all the kid wanted. An Eels jumper with nine on the back. Not an outrageous request when he'd worn that very same one in the previous year's grand final triumph.
"I wanted to play hooker and would've stayed at Parramatta to do it, definitely," Buhrer tells The Sunday Telegraph ahead of his NSW Origin debut.
"But when I spoke to the people there, they couldn't guarantee a spot in the starting side. A few days later I got a phone call from Manly, asking if I wanted to play hooker for them.
"Growing up I had been a Manly fan so it all made my decision pretty simple."
For Eels fans it's a sadly familiar yarn.
When Buhrer runs out for the NSW Blues next Wednesday, he will stand alongside skipper Paul Gallen and interchange beast Tony Williams as Eels who got away.
Buhrer was snapped up by David Penna - a 1990s Parramatta five-eighth who is now a key member of the Sea Eagles coaching staff.
"At the time of signing Jamie, we had very little depth among our hookers and back-rowers," Penna recalled last night. "He came with a big rap and, to be honest, we thought he was too good to be sitting on an SG Ball bench.
"In his first year of Toyota Cup, he struggled a little bit with the speed of the game. But then over summer he went away and worked on his strength, his speed, and came back a much better player."
Eventually, Buhrer would be named captain of a Sea Eagles Toyota Cup side that included Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans.
"Jamie had everyone's respect for the simple fact that he worked so hard in everything he did," Penna said.