Jamie Buhrer knows he has some big boots to fill, but Glenn Stewart's shoes are fitting pretty nicely for the Manly back-rower as he prepares to roost in the Sea Eagles' nest for the long haul.
Having all but finalised a new deal with the club, Buhrer shapes as a ready-made replacement for the Rabbitohs-bound Stewart on the Manly right edge that the veteran has made his own over the past decade.
With Stewart unsighted in the maroon and white since the Sea Eagles' Round 8 demolition of the Raiders due to a long-term ankle injury, Buhrer has made the most of his audition for a regular starting spot in the Manly pack.
In his five games so far outside close mate Daly Cherry-Evans in the right-side corridor, Buhrer has scored three tries, ran for the most metres in Manly's forward pack at 135 per game, and averaged 33 tackles a match, leaving him second behind only hooker Matt Ballin for defensive output.
Having grown up as a Manly fan and played almost 100 games for the Sea Eagles since debuting in 2010, Buhrer admitted the chance to secure a starting spot had played a part in his decision to stay with the club.
"I'm going to stay, and I'd like to think that with what I've done so far and obviously another pre-season to prove myself; that there will be a starting spot here for me," Buhrer told NRL.com in the lead-up to Friday night's crucial clash with premiers the Sydney Roosters at Brookvale Oval.
"Everyone wants to play 80 minutes definitely, but even If that wasn't the case, there was an opportunity for a starting spot down the line, this is the club that I want to be at."
"I'd like to finish my career here... There's a great culture here, a great coaching staff and some of my best mates here."
The Patrician Brothers Blacktown product's future has been the subject of plenty of speculation over the course of 2014, with his former junior club Parramatta keen to lure him back to the blue and gold, but Buhrer said his ongoing contract negotiations had not been a distraction as Manly surged to the top of the NRL ladder.
"It's part and parcel of it these days," said Buhrer. "Footy's a business, the club's got to go through its processes and my manager was looking at the worst case scenario, basically just a plan B if it didn't work out but it never felt like I was playing for my future or anything like that."
"There were other options, but this is where I want to be. Full stop."
While Buhrer has been amongst the Sea Eagles best in recent weeks in his new 80-minute role, the former NSW utility is happy to return to the bench for Stewart when he does eventually return from injury. However the 30-year-old has only just begun walking again after having surgery on his injured ankle, and is expected to have another month or so on the sidelines, giving Buhrer plenty of time to make himself comfortable in the starting line-up.
"Gifty's (Stewart) a few weeks away, but it goes without saying that he'll come back in on that right edge straight away... and I'm more than happy to go back onto the bench when he comes back and go back that utility role.
"With a player like Glenn who's been so good over so many years they have every right to fall straight back into their position that's been theirs for a long time."
Buhrer will move from lock to second-row to cover for the suspended Anthony Watmough as the Sea Eagles prepare for their Grand Final re-match with the Roosters at Brookvale Oval.