Gutherson keen to be Stewart's successor
Clinton Gutherson has his eye on the maroon and white No.1 jumper Brett Stewart has called his own for the past decade at Manly, but for now he is happy to be learning at the feet of his childhood hero.
The born and bred Northern Beaches product will have to be content with a green and gold variation for the time being as he lines up for his second year at fullback with the Junior Kangaroos.
Heading into camp ahead of their clash with the Kiwis next Saturday in Auckland, Gutherson said he can't see himself anywhere but Manly when he comes off-contract at the end of 2015, and aspires to assume Stewart's title as Prince of Brookvale when he either retires or takes his services elsewhere.
"I'd like to take his spot one day, I would," Gutherson told NRL.com.
"I grew up in the area and looked up to him as a kid. So hopefully after Snake's hung up the boots in the next two or three years or whenever I'd like to make that spot my own.
"A few of the coaching have said that, keep working on your game and you can get there one day. For now though, I've just got to bide my time, learn as much as possible and work my way into the team."
Whether Stewart remains on the peninsula for much longer remains to be seen, with the former Origin and Test star requesting a release earlier in the year and rumours of a too good to be true offer from the Raiders on the table.
For Gutherson, who was reluctant to comment on what Stewart's departure would mean for the club, this means he is pumping one of the most natural custodians in the game for pointers at every chance he gets.
"Snake [Stewart] is massive for me," Gutherson said.
"He's one of the best in the game still, has been for so many years and I'm just looking to learn as much as possible from him while he's still playing the game.
"There's no one better to learn from, he's a freak and I don't know how he does most of the things he does to be honest, it's humbling to be learning from him.
"We work on positional play a lot, just where to be and what holes and lines to run. And my whole game as well, he's a massive help doing extras with me when he doesn’t need to."
Following the same hymn sheet as most of Geoff Toovey's choir at the Sea Eagles, Gutherson denied the endless innuendo of rifts amongst senior players and contract dramas took their toll on the club as they bombed out of the finals in straight sets despite being the benchmark team for much of the year.
But with the deals tying halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran to Manly expiring at the end of 2015, and plenty of clubs willing to pay over and beyond to get their hands on one of the best playmakers in the game, Gutherson said he'd like to see the pair stay in the maroon and white.
"I'd love to keep playing alongside them and play my career there with them," he said.
"They're two of the best halves in the game and they're still going to get better. But we've just got to see what happens and leave it up to the managers and the club. It's our job to focus on footy; it's their job to handle all that other stuff."
More pressing on the 20-year-old's agenda is seeing his name on Toovey's team sheet most Tuesdays in 2015. He's got stiff competition given Stewart's mortgage on the Manly backfield and Kiwi rep Peta Hiku and City Origin winger Jorge Taufua occupying the flanks, but having been around the first-grade squad for the past two years Gutherson is ready to make the leap from promising fringe first grader to regular starter.
"Last year I didn't expect to get a run at all, I was just working away with the 20s but I was grateful just to get the opportunity," Gutherson said.
"This year I was hoping to get a bit more of a run, a few more games, and next one I'd like to get some more games again and maybe get a starting spot.
"It's good, they're always teaching me something new every day. Even though you are competing for the same spots, it's important everyone work with each other and pushes each other. I'll be looking to have a good pre-season and hopefully get a spot in the side somewhere."