Tim Mannah making a big impact for Eels

‘Impact’ might as well be Tim Mannah’s middle name – his rousing stints for the Eels off the bench have helped the side overcome their slow start to the season. <b>Big League's Maria Tsialis writes.</b><br><br>When State of Origin beams across Australia on Wednesday night, you can guarantee giant Eels prop Tim Mannah will be crowded around a TV with 40 of his closest family and friends, cheering the Blues on.<br><br>But with just one and a half seasons in first grade and a City Origin jumper hanging in his closet, the 22-year-old is fast putting himself at the forefront of one of the highest honours in the game – as an Origin bolter of the future.<br><br>“He’s a very positive young fellow,” observes John Cartwright, who coached Mannah in his first representative jersey for City this year. <br>&nbsp; <br>“I think he’s got an enormous future in the game. He’s got a great build for a front-rower… he’s definitely got the ability to play State of Origin.”<br><br>Parramatta co-captain Nathan Cayless also believes that with a couple more seasons of first grade under his belt, Mannah has what it takes to make it in representative football.<br><br>“He’s just got that tough sort of mentality, he’s a tough kid,” Cayless says of 107-kilogram Mannah’s Origin future. “He’s very strong, he’s hard to tackle and he’s good in defence, so he’s got a very complete game. I’m sure given any sort of opportunity he’ll take it and make the most of it.”<br><br>As far as playing for the Blues, Mannah himself remains philosophical about his chances. <br><br>“I don’t want to get my expectations too high but I think every kid that’s playing in the NRL dreams of playing State of Origin,” he says. <br><br>“I was happy to make City at my age as a front-rower, but you know when you think State of Origin you think it’s definitely something you want to be a part of and I wouldn’t let anyone down if I played, for sure.”<br><br>Making the City team was like a homecoming for Mannah, with the camp giving him the opportunity to catch up with the players who, like him, have come through the western Sydney feeder system. <br><br>With Trent Hodkinson, Michael Jennings, Tim Grant, Lachlan Coote, as well as team-mate at Parramatta, Kris Keating, in the squad, Mannah felt like he had been transported back to his junior days. <br>&nbsp;<br>“There were a lot of players that I’ve played with since I was younger, so to get back into camp again and spend a week with them was really good,” he says. “Especially to play your first rep game… it was exciting, I was just in a buzz all week to be named in the side.”<br><br>Mannah’s inclusion in the City squad was no fluke. Playing off the bench for Parramatta this season he’s provided enormous impact, averaging almost 100 metres in the 30 minutes he’s been on the field. He’s also proven to be one of the Eels’ most effective defenders– powering through 20 tackles in his limited game time.<br><br>Even during the Eels’ slow start to 2010, Mannah has been a bright spark, adding aggression and lifting intensity around the park.<br><br>And he couldn’t have asked for a better introduction into first grade football, playing every game of the 2009 season, which included scoring a crucial try for the Eels in their Preliminary Final against the Bulldogs. <br><br>His run was so good that he even had to put classes for his bachelor’s degree in Sports Business on hold. <br><br>“Last year was a bit of a write-off [at university],” Mannah says, laughing. “Semester two… I thought I’ll settle down now and start getting back into it, and we didn’t look like we were going to make the finals. But then we started winning.<br><br>“So far it’s been a good start to the year for myself. I have to credit Daniel Anderson – last year he stuck with me throughout the whole season, he gave me every game from game one, and that gave me a lot of confidence.” <br><br>Playing his junior football at the Guilford Owls, Mannah crossed paths with Nathan Cayless at a young age, and has looked up to the prop forward from the age of 14.<br><br>“[Nathan Cayless] has been like a hero of mine since I was young, I used to get a massive buzz just training with him when I was younger,” he says.<br><br>“He took me under his wing a bit and mentored me, and to be playing in the same team with him is just exciting. I couldn’t imagine anyone else to learn my trade off.”<br><br>Cayless laughs when he hears that Mannah has described him as his ‘hero’, but is full of praise for the youngster. <br><br>“It’s fair to say he’s really established himself in first grade,” Cayless says. “I remember watching Tim as a young kid coming through the juniors, he’s always been a captain or a senior player of the team – he’s a natural leader. <br><br>“It’s been good to see how he handles himself in first grade, he gets better and better every week.”<br><br>While a starting spot beckons for the young prop once Cayless hangs up his boots, Mannah insists he’s only concerned with playing his best for the club no matter what number he has on his back. <br><br>“Every player in the NRL wants to be in the starting team. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself,” he says.<br><br>“With Justin Poore in the team and Fuifui Moimoi being one of the best there is, I don’t want to too carried away but obviously it would be nice to be one of the starting front-rowers in the competition.”<br><br>While Nathan Cayless agrees that there’s some stiff competition for Mannah at Parramatta, he believes there’s a big future ahead of him.<br><br>“I think [a starting spot] should definitely be a goal of his,” Cayless says.<br><br>He pauses for a moment, chuckling at his next thought.<br><br>“That’s if he doesn’t take my spot this year!” <br>