Stewart nearly back to best: Toovey Joe Barton AAP Mon, Feb 13, 2012 - 1:17 PM Manly coach Geoff Toovey says Brett Stewart is leaps and bounds ahead of where his fitness was at this point last season and he expects the NRL will see the best of the star fullback in 2012 following an injury-free preparation. Stewart, who missed the 2009 and 2010 seasons with successive knee injuries that threatened his career, returned in a big way last season to resume his role as the crucial cog in Manly's backline. The 26-year-old also regained his mantle as the Sea Eagles' major try-scoring weapon, crossing for 15 tries from 20 games in 2011, including four in the finals, as he gained confidence in his game and his knees. And while that was short of his 22 tries in 2008 and 21 in 2006, Toovey believes Stewart will find another gear in the coming season. "He is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was this time last year," Toovey told AAP. "He finished the year off in sizzling form. I think he's actually looking forward to starting a season where he's not encumbered by injury. "It was a very traumatic injury in the sense that there were lots of doubts about whether he could perform at the top level again with his athleticism and whether he could reach his top speeds again. "But I think he's worked very hard on it and the medical staff have worked very hard on it. "He's back to his best." The Sea Eagles will take on Leeds this Saturday (AEDT) in the World Club Challenge, where Stewart will again play a major role in Manly's attack. And Toovey admits Manly would have struggled to win last year's premiership had it not been for such a successful comeback by Stewart. "You don't win grand finals without a potent backline," Toovey said. "And we got that from the likes of Brett and Jamie Lyon. If you take a player like Brett out of that team, then it does reduce that potential."