Veteran prop Willie Mason has never seen a coach under such pressure as Manly’s Geoff Toovey, and believes the Sea Eagles legend deserves to see out his contract with the NRL club.
Speculation is rife that Trent Barrett is set to take over as Sea Eagles mentor next season, with Toovey to be cut before the final year of his coaching contract.
Former Australian and NSW representative Mason, who is playing his 16th year of first grade, said Toovey is an underrated coach and his record: a preliminary final appearance, a grand final and a semi-final in his three years at the helm at Brookvale speaks for itself.
“He has had to deal with that much, I have never seen a coach go through so much in the one season I have been here,” Mason told AAP.
“He deals with it well, he doesn’t come to training in a bad mood, he is always firing everyone up. He comes in here he has so many ideas, so many different game plans.”
Toovey has come under pressure with Manly battling to stay alive in the playoffs race after qualifying for the last 10 finals series.
But Mason said the 286-game Sea Eagles veteran and 1996 premiership winner already has the runs on the board.
“If you go on performance he deserves to stay, we are a performance based operation aren’t we?” Mason said.
“Toovs is very underrated, it would be a shame if they let him go.”
Mason, who has played 281 NRL games with Canterbury, Sydney Roosters, North Queensland, Newcastle and the Sea Eagles is keen to play on in next year in what would be his 17th season in the NRL, said Toovey should be offered more respect.
“I am really, really surprised at the pressure he is under,” said Mason, who has been mentored by some of the best in the game, including Wayne Bennett.
“He is just Manly born and bred and he has done everything for the club. His head looks like that because of what he has done for the club and he bleeds maroon and white.
“He is just the sort of coach you would want to coach you, there must be some underlying issue I don’t know.”
Manly need to win at least six of their last eight premiership games to make the finals, beginning with Monday’s round 19 match against second-placed North Queensland at Brookvale Oval on Monday.
The suspended James Tamou will miss the match, but Mason said it would still be a big test up front for Manly.
“I have played against Matt Scott for years and Jimmy not playing this week, that is a good thing for us, but even young (Jason) Taumalolo I think he is one of the best forwards in the world at the moment,” Masons said.
“It is going to be a good indication of where we are at.”
* Brett Stewart has scored eight tries in his past eight games and 26 in his past 25 games at Brookvale. He now needs just three tries to equal Steve Menzies as the all-time leading try scorer at the venue.
* Johnathan Thurston has a competition high 19 try assists the season, and has directly scored, assisted or played some major part in 30 of the Cowboys 58 tries this season.
* The Cowboys make easily the most run metres of any team in 2015, averaging almost 1600m per game, just over 80m more per game than the Roosters in second and almost 150m more than the Dragons in third.