Where’s the real Geoff Toovey?
New Manly Sea Eagles head coach Geoff Toovey. AAP Image/Dean Lewins
The general conduct of Geoff Toovey in 2012 has been exemplary, and quite frankly I’m disappointed.
When the news broke last year that he was to be the new head coach of Manly, I felt one of those childlike thrills you get when you’re standing a safe distance away from someone who is about to go in to a comical fit of rage.
You beauty! A year of entertaining verbal roasts just like the type he famously deployed in his sandy-blonde days of pomp was surely on the cards.
Remember the days when Toovey was a taped-up terrier living life out on the paddock for the Sea Eagles?
He was a robust, skilful and resilient leader with the preened looks of a divinely behaved schoolboy and the foul mouth of a vile third generation trucker.
Combine these traits with a forward approach to airing grievances with anyone on the field who made his life difficult, and what you had was a Northern Beaches Napoleon.
Because of this reputation, I naturally saw his appointment to the coaching role at Manly as an opportunity for a delivery of some much-needed ignition to the bland universe of guarded coach-speak.
My expectation was for Toovey to channel his agitated on-field persona from the 90s and stream it directly into the realms of the coaching world in the form of press conference tirades and searing death stares.
Early in the piece, it seemed even outside influences were on the same page as me, and the variables had it beautifully poised to get the rookie coach going hog-wild.
The media was on side, drumming up the speculation about a supposedly decaying Manly squad under threat from salary cap pressures and its associated vultures.
They predicted him to struggle plying his trade in that dastardly Shadow of Des. High expectations that come with inheriting the control panel of the reigning premiers were to drive him to cranium-expanding anger.
Then it was the turn of the footy powers-that-be to pelt a few rocks at him; an injury crisis, a mini-slump and conjecture over the retention of his big stars were just a few attempts to resurface his on-field terrier.
It was supposed to be too much to handle and he was expected to demonstratively prove so. Unfortunately so far, he’s failed miserably.
Besides the occasional short comment when mid-contract talk or post-loss, Toovey has been cool, calm and laced with grace. And not to mention, mostly winning.
He even beautifully handled being delivered the news of the change to the shoulder charge laws second-hand from the press as he alighted from the team bus on the Gold Coast last week.
Not even the NRL forgetting to advise him of a major rule amendment on safe tackling right on the eve of the playoffs was enough to get the blood vessels bulging on his panel-beaten forehead. And this bloke has Steve Matai in his squad.
What happened to you, Tooves? You’ve changed man. You used to be cranky, and now you’re just… cool.
I feel like I’ve been short-changed on a tantrum or two.
However, I potentially see a hair-trigger coming up in the rear view mirror.
Could the peppery build-up of this opening week of finals culminating with Friday’s traffic-halter against the Bulldogs be the proverbial poke that sets off the shelved Toovey fireworks display?
He’s dealt with the Darth Vader/Skywalker stuff surrounding himself and Hasler all year. But that’s nothing compared with the rarefied stakes of Friday night’s outcome.
The deep psychological bruise waiting to be inflicted, the week’s break to nurse pounded muscles after they belt the deep brown out of each other, and not to mention the outright premiership favouritism is all awaiting the winner of this Titanic match-up that should go close to filling ANZ.
Not since he’s taken the gig at the Sea Eagles have so many sharp pokers of pressure all prodded him simultaneously. The only way this test could be larger is if it were the last day in September.
Is Friday’s Doggy date going to tip Toovey over the edge and see us finally get the captivating scenes of rage we’ve all been waiting for?
Perhaps Channel Nine should get Adam MacDougall on standby for a post-match interview just as cover if he doesn’t combust as hoped. Tell him to bring his boots.