JAMIE Buhrer was like any other young rugby league-loving boy growing up in Westmead in the heart of Parramatta territory.
Hoping one day to be good enough to graduate to play for an NRL club.
But this tough-as-nails kid (pictured) had a secret. Unlike all the other boys in his Hills District junior side, Buhrer wasn’t dreaming about playing for the Eels.
“Even though I grew up out Parramatta way I was always a big fan of Manly,” the Sea Eagles Toyota Cup skipper said ahead of Saturday night’s qualifying final against the Raiders at ANZ Stadium.
“It wasn’t a cool thing to admit ... I was probably the only one. But my dad was a big Manly supporter so they were my team too.
“Players like Tooves (Geoff Toovey) were guys I looked up to. He was a little player but the way he could just go out there and stick it to the opposition was a credit to him.”
And it’s a quality Buhrer has shown he possesses in spades since moving to the Sea Eagles at the start of 2008.
Despite a difficult first 12 months with the club, which was marred by ankle and sternum injuries and inconsistent form, the hard-working lock has shown he’s a first grader of the future in 2009.
The 19-year-old’s displays helped his young team to the NYC minor premiership and he was also selected in the Toyota Cup Team of the Year.
“Jamie’s a natural leader, he doesn’t say much he just leads by example,” Manly under-20 coach David Penna said.
Buhrer’s move to Manly carries on a seemingly endless “tradition” of former Parramatta players joining their fierce rivals, alongside the likes of Jamie Lyon, David Williams and Heath L’Estrange.
“I was at a bit of a crossroads at Parramatta,” Buhrer, who has re-signed with the Sea Eagles until the end of 2011, said.
“I’d been playing some good footy but they didn’t give me many reasons to stay.
“Manly showed me enough interest and I was more than happy to come over here.”
Kick off on Saturday night is 6.15pm.