ON the eve of Des Hasler's return to Brookvale Oval, Manly utility Jamie Buhrer has given his replacement, Geoff Toovey, a glowing endorsement by predicting he could be coach of the Sea Eagles for the next 20 years.
Buhrer, who was ushered into first grade by Hasler two years ago, was responding to suggestions that the Canterbury coach could one day return to the club.
That would mean Toovey eventually making way. That's unlikely to happen, in the short term at least. Maybe not even in the long-term, given Buhrer's belief in Toovey's ability to carve out a long and successful career at the helm of the Sea Eagles.
"Toovs is doing a great job here now," Buhrer said.
"I wouldn't discount Toovs being here for the next 10 or 20 years. He is a good coach and he will only get better. Obviously it would be a good story to have Dessie back here at some stage in his career.
"But having said that, he's killing it at the Dogs at the moment so I don't think they would be too keen to let him go."
Toovey spent six years as an assistant to Hasler before taking over the top job last November after Hasler left for Canterbury. Despite a season hindered by injury and suspension, the defending premier is safely in the top eight and eyeing a late-season run at the title.
Toovey can take much of the credit for that. The rookie coach has carried his renowned competitiveness and dedication into the coaching ranks, ensuring the club avoids a hangover from last year's premiership and Hasler's departure.
"I think Geoff has got the job as long as he wants it, as far as the boys are concerned," winger David Williams said.
"He has done a great job with us. He certainly knows his way around the club. He has always been around so it's not like it has been a hard transition."
Buhrer added: "He has just got a good approach to it. He knows rugby league, he has played at all levels and has got a good rapport with the players and the culture we have here.
"I can't see any reason why he can't be a long-term fixture here."
Toovey is tied to the Sea Eagles until the end of 2014 but chief executive David Perry acknowledged the club would like to think its coach would warrant a contract extension beyond that.
"Geoff is in the early stages of his NRL coaching career," Perry said. "He is doing a good job. We would absolutely hope to have him here for the longer term.
"He's important to the club and the development of our squad."
Perry also confirmed the club had no plans for extra security for Hasler's return. He is expected to receive a mixed reaction from Sea Eagles supporters.
Manly officials are anticipating a sell-out while Hasler's comeback is expected to ensure bumper ratings for the Nine Network.
"Sports fans have always loved a sub-plot and this is a humdinger," Nine's head of sport, Steve Crawley, said.
"Brookvale is one of the game's great battlefields and Des Hasler has gone from Napoleon, the local general, to Benedict Arnold. As for record ratings, that's up to the audience to decide."