I first spotted Tooves when I was at the SCG watching the 1987 Grand Final. He played half back in Reserve Grade that day for the Sea Eagles and I remember thinking who is that blonde midget?. The Reggies were beaten that hot September day by Souths while the First Grade side led by Paul Vautin won the Premiership against the Canberra Raiders.
With Des Hasler firmly entrenched as the first grade half back it was not until the following season that Toovey received his chance in first grade. It was a cold winters mid week night when the Sea Eagles took on the touring Great British Lions at a jam packed Brookvale Oval.
With the majority of the first grade stars resting for the weekend clash, Toovey starred in the Sea Eagles 20 to 0 victory over the international side.
Toovey was local junior from the Belrose club and despite giving away size and weight to almost every player he played against he never took a backward step on the football field.
His deceptive pace and quick step created many scoring opportunities however Tooves would be best remembered for his rugged front on defence. Manly fans would like nothing better than seeing big front rowers trying to run over the top of the pocket dynamo and coming off second best when he picked them up and drove them backwards.
By 1989 he had established himself in first grade with some outstanding displays forcing Hasler to move position. In 1990 he made his State of Origin debut for NSW while he made his appearance for the Kangaroos the following year in the 1991 tour of PNG.
Tooveys never say die attitude saw him appointed Manlys captain in 1993 but the year started badly when he broke his jaw in a trial against Auckland in New Zealand. An early season knee reconstruction in 1994 put his campaign on hold until his returned to his best form to lead the Sea Eagles into the semi finals.
With the Super League war breaking out in 1995 he was at the forefront of the ARL survival campaign whilst captaining Manly in their disappointing Grand Final loss to the Bulldogs.
However in 1996, Toovey with a fractured eye socket guided the Sea Eagles to premiership glory against the Dragons and in so doing won the Clive Churchill medal for best fairest in the decider at the Football Stadium.
However further premiership glory was not forthcoming in 1997 when the Sea Eagles played Newcastle in the Grand Final. A significant turning point in the game was when the Knights winger Adam Mcdougall cowardly walked on Tooveys face, although he courageously stayed on the field he was badly concussed and could not contribute at his normally high standard. History tells we lost that game in the final seconds to a late Knights try.
In 1998 he shifted to hooker where he again excelled for not only Manly but NSW and Australia. Over the years he captained both NSW and Australia while playing 15 Origin games and 13 test matches.
He was part of the ill fated Northern Eagles debacle when Manly had a temporary union with the North Sydney Bears. Over his magnificent career he played 286 first grade games and was Manlys longest serving captain in its history.
The little champion retired at the end of 2001, he scored 35 tries for the Sea Eagles during his career and most notably no tries for the Northern Eagles.
He remains committed in retirement to the Sea Eagles, becoming coach of the clubs Premier League side in 2004 and taking them to the semis in his first 2 seasons.
Geoff Toovey a small man with a big heart, another Manly champion.