Off-contract Mannah desperate to reclaim brother's tribute trophy

Tim Mannah will honour his late brother Johnny for a seventh consecutive season when the Eels host Cronulla in their final home game at ANZ Stadium on Saturday before shifting to Bankwest Stadium in a fortnight.

Johnny made his NRL debut for the Sharks in 2009 before being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

He made an inspiring return to the field in 2011 but tragically relapsed 12 months later after announcing a move back to his junior club Parramatta.

Johnny lost his battle in January, 2013, but his memory continues to live on through both clubs and the wider rugby league community.

"It's my favourite game of the year," Tim told NRL.com.

"It's a chance for us to celebrate Johnny's life. My family still love their footy but they don't come out to too many games.

"My dad comes every now and then but for Mum this will be the only game she comes to. This is the one game everyone comes out in numbers.

Sharks co-captain Paul Gallen receives the Johnny Mannah Cup in 2018.
Sharks co-captain Paul Gallen receives the Johnny Mannah Cup in 2018. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"It's special to have them come out and for them it's not so much about watching footy but pinching ourselves at the fact these two awesome clubs have given our family a chance to celebrate his legacy and supporting this game."

Cronulla have held the Johnny Mannah Cup for the past four seasons, something Tim wants to regain with his future beyond 2019 up in the air.

Mannah is Parramatta's longest-serving current player with 226 games to his name but faces an uncertain future with pressure rising in 2019 on the club and coach Brad Arthur to deliver results.

"Brad's done well to handle everything thrown at him and he's in the same boat as all of us, he's worked hard on himself to help turn this ship around," Mannah said.

"A lot of us are off contract at the end of the year and we're all banding together to help each other out. He wants to get a new deal as we all want to get new deals."

The Eels suffered a 14-point loss to premiers Sydney Roosters last week but were right in the game when they led 18-14 with 20 minutes to play.

In comparison to their embarrassing 44-10 thrashing from the Tricolours in the final round last season, the Eels' improvement has been on show in the opening three rounds.

Eels prop Tim Mannah.
Eels prop Tim Mannah. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"We've come a long way, we spent a lot of time in the off season doing some soul searching in terms of what we can do to get better," Mannah said.

"We asked a lot of questions of each other and worked hard. We've worked hard on unity, for whatever reason last year we did feel a bit fractured when you look back on it.

"In hindsight we weren't playing as a team and working together. But we have turned a corner, everyone is on the same page now. We didn't get the win against the Roosters but we've taken a lot of confidence out of that game."