If there was any chance of Jamie Buhrer getting frustrated at his slow introduction to first grade last season, a quiet word with Des Hasler did the trick.
“Des said at the end of last year that he has faith in me as a player and that he could see me being a big part of the team in the future,” said Buhrer. “That was encouragement enough.”
One year on from playing 133 minutes of first grade across five games in 2010 and Buhrer has reaped the rewards of Manly’s patient approach to player development. And equally, Manly’s focus on developing talent through the ranks rather than big-name recruiting has paid big dividends with a premiership.
Seven of Manly’s first grade players this season came through the club’s Toyota Cup system, four of whom played in Sunday’s Grand Final: Buhrer, Daly Cherry-Evans, Kieran Foran, William Hopoate, Darcy Lussick, Michael Oldfield and Dean Whare.
“There are a few of us who played under-20s together a couple of years ago and we’re
all starting to come through now. I think a lot of us young boys really stepped up this year
and we got the rewards we were after,” Buhrer explained.
The young generation of Sea Eagles has been hailed by many as one of the club’s greatest strengths, particularly after the stellar season for halves Cherry-Evans and Foran.
Hasler paid tribute to the side’s youth, saying players such as Buhrer, Lussick and Hopoate had built on their limited first grade experience last season and that Manly’s youth had been a big factor in the success of 2011.
“Some of our young players were fantastic,” said Hasler. “They came together so well, just the way they gelled.
“The way they brought an enormous amount of enthusiasm, that certainly rubbed off on
the senior players and from there it was the way they managed it and the way they worked together.
“They’re an extremely close group, which is good as well. There’s not much ego amongst it; they’re a very humble group and they always work for the greater cause. Full credit to them.”