Mannah: Eels more balanced than 2009
Parramatta Eels skipper Tim Mannah is the only remaining player that featured in the 2009 finals series and believes the side is more balance across the park eight years on as they head into their clash with North Queensland on Saturday night.
Parramatta finished eighth in 2009 but went on to shock the competition by winning their next three sudden death games to reach the grand final against Melbourne – who were later stripped of the premiership for salary cap breaches.
Former Eels fullback Jarryd Hayne nearly a decade ago influenced the miraculous effort of the Eels' charge to the finals at fullback and ex-prop Fuifui Moimoi was another key man.
Mannah insists the difference is the lack of reliance on one particular player, and the build up to playing September football has been a long-term process coming to fruition.
"Where we are at the moment I think this team has got a lot more expectation on ourselves and in 2009 was more of a wave we all jumped on and enjoyed the ride," Mannah told NRL.com.
"We had a new coach come in that year, it was a whirlwind and everyone was feeding off the positive energy.
"This year it's more pre-meditated and we've been building over a number of years."
The club has suffered some of its darkest moments to get to where they are today – back-to-back wooden spoons in 2012 and 2013, four coaching changes and the salary cap drama that saw them stripped of competition points last season.
Mannah has seen it all and experienced the emotional rollercoaster since day one, which makes the opportunity to lead the side onto ANZ Stadium on Saturday night all the more special for the 200-game veteran.
He credits the coaching staff, in particular Brad Arthur for the club's turnaround.
"I can't rap the guy enough, what he's done for the club over the years has lifted us from a very dark time to a place now where people love being involved and at," Mannah said.
"It's not an easy job to do that but he does it with a lot of class and has got a playing group that will do anything for him.
"The coach has been here now for four years and picked up the club in a dire time and it hasn't happened overnight."
Parramatta face a North Queensland outfit oozing with finals experience and confidence after their shock 15-14 extra time win over Cronulla.
Mannah was far from shocked with the result and after suffering a heavy defeat in Darwin from Paul Green's men earlier in the year, is prepared for the unexpected.
"In 90 minutes last weekend it probably summed up their whole season," he said.
"They showed resilience and that they don't make excuses. They're disciplined and always hang in there.
"They're a very good footy team and the way games go these days if you don't show up your pants can be pulled down pretty quickly.
"If you give them an inch they'll take a mile."
Mannah admitted the result in Melbourne was a let down despite the positive feedback the club had received after the game.
"We went down there wanting to get the result, everyone was saying we should've been happy to come close but close isn't good enough," Mannah said.
"We'll learn some lessons from that game and be better for it this week."
Meanwhile, injured Eels fullback Bevan French has been left out of the 21-man squad to take on the Cowboys with an ongoing hamstring injury.
In better news, Cameron King has been named for the clash despite an arm injury.