KILO for kilo Geoff Toovey is the toughest footballer I have ever seen. And I saw enough hurt in his eyes last weekend to believe he is about to call on that toughness in his role as Manly coach.
Toovey was fuming over his team's display from hell against the Storm.
He - or anyone else - didn't see it coming.
But after being thrust into the role in weird and unforeseen circumstances just over 12 months ago, Toovey has already decided he will coach his own way next season.
He has always been a student of the game and had a feel for preparation and tactics from a young age.
He is a product of the Bob Fulton school of coaching and as such sets high standards.
His long apprenticeship under Des Hasler made him a logical replacement for his premiership-winning teammate.
But being a head coach trebles the workload and the pressure. Toovey did well to finish fourth in his first season of coaching.
Some might say the drop from one to four is unacceptable but I don't agree.
In effect, Toovey was a win away from another grand final and will be a much more confident coach second time around.
He knows he has a reliable roster but I'm tipping more than a few exciting youngsters attracted to the club will feature in his plans for next season.
BACK DESSIE'S DOGS
I can't believe the animosity on the peninsula towards two-time premiership winning coach Des Hasler in Sunday's Bulldogs/Storm grand final.
It seems his magnificent playing and coaching record at Manly has been forgotten by many.
People who couldn't wait to shake his hand in recent years are now death-riding him.
I'm proud to reveal that wasn't the case with the majority at Friday's Sea Eagles first-grade reunion at Manly Leagues Club.
One of the first text messages Hasler received last Saturday night when the Dogs qualified for the grand final was from Manly godfather Ken Arthurson.
He was cheering for Dessies' Dogs in the grand final.
"There is still a lot of Sea Eagle in Des and while I was upset in the circumstances in which he left the club I am in his corner on Sunday," he said.
Greats give their grand final tips
28 Sep 12 @ 06:16pm by Jon Geddes
Manly legend Ken Arthurson (centre) inducts recent Sea Eagles stars Anthony Watmough (left) and Jason King as life members. Photo: SIMON COCKSEDGE
WHEN the men who have proudly worn the Manly rugby league jersey over the years got together for their annual reunion on Friday, there was one subject they could not agree on: who will win Sunday's NRL grand final?
"If I had a bet I would probably go for Canterbury," Manly doyen Ken Arthurson said.
"I have been good friends with Des Hasler for a lot of years and, despite the fact that he is not here with us at Manly, he had done a lot for this club as a player and a great coach.
"For that reason I would like to see Canterbury get up and I think they will."
Star backrower Anthony Watmough said the Sea Eagles had a great rivalry with both teams.
"I'd like to see Melbourne after where they have come back from in the past couple of years," Watmough said.
"A lot of Manly fans might not like that but they have shown their true class over the past few years to get to where they are."
The modern game is all about momentum, said Manly's 1987 grand final hooker Mal Cochrane.
"I think Melbourne in a touch because they are a bit more mobile around the ruck," he said.
"I am hoping for Des's sake that Canterbury win."
Former Kangaroo skipper Max Krilich didn't like either team but, when pressed, he went with Melbourne.
"Just because they are top three and they are so well structured," he said.
Cliffy Lyons agreed that Storm would probably win.
"They have big match players who have been there and done it," he said.
But tough forward Ray Brown reckoned it would be the year of the Dogs.
"I just think Dessie is the best coach in the game and they just have a better forward pack and don't lose anything when the bench comes on," Brown said.
Tryscoring whiz Phil Blake said it could be one of the best grand finals of the past 20 years.