Parramatta captain Tim Mannah says the Eels badly needed a break from playing to try to clear their heads after some recent heavy defeats.
Asked if last weekend’s bye had come at a good time for the Eels, Mannah replied: “Definitely. I think we got to that stage in the last few weeks.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, and a lot of guys who maybe hit a bit of a wall, so it was a perfect time in our season to give everyone a chance to refresh and go away from footy a bit.”
Mannah said last week’s birth of his nephew, Jonathan Mannah, had given him a huge boost at a time when he needed one.
The baby is the son of the eldest of the four Mannah brothers, Danny, and his wife, Veronika, and is named after Jonathan “Johnny” Mannah, who died from Hodgkin’s lymphoma in January.
“Personally, I think the birth of this baby has been the best thing for me,” Mannah said.
The Eels are preparing to meet Sydney Roosters at Parramatta Stadium on Friday night. It will be the second time the two teams have met this season; the first time was a horror show for Parramatta, with the Roosters smashing them 50-0 at Allianz Stadium in Round 4.
The Eels have just three wins and 11 losses this season, and in their most recent game before the bye they were thrashed 42-4 by Gold Coast at Mudgee. The week before that, they went down 32-12 against St George Illawarra.
Another heavy defeat came against Penrith, 44-12, in Round 7.
It emerged this week that Parramatta coach Ricky Stuart had told at least 12 of the players on the club’s roster that they were not wanted for next season, and the club’s chief executive, Ken Edwards, issued a statement saying the players were being “held accountable” for performances.
It has been reported that on-field co-captain Reni Maitua, as well as Matt Keating, Ben Smith, Willie Tonga, Ben Roberts and Cheyse Blair, are among the players on the way out, although the club is not confirming any names at this stage.
Ahead of the dramatic news about the player cleanout being revealed, Mannah said that while this season has been difficult so far, he believed that Stuart was the man to get the Eels heading in the right direction again.
“I was looking forward to this season, but obviously it’s been a tough trot so far,” Mannah said. “And it’s not just this year, it’s been a tough journey the last few years.
“But with Ricky here it’s refreshing for me, because I can see that light at the end of the tunnel and see the direction in which he’s taking this club.
“It makes it very comforting to know where we’re headed, and that’s what drives me and motivates me every week.”
Mannah said he had found it hard to concentrate on football while his brother Johnny was bravely fighting illness.
“When Johnny was sick it weighed me down a bit at training last season,” Mannah said. “Knowing that I was playing and training and enjoying my life and he was sick in bed... I think that really rattled me at the time.
“Since he passed away I think there’s been a bit of a relief, knowing that awful time is over for him, and for me... I think this is probably the best footy season I’ve had in my career.
“It’s been a bit of a release and a bit of freedom, knowing he’s not going through that pain.”
One bright spot out of the big loss to the Titans was that Eels prop Fuifui Moimoi ran for 158 metres, which was his highest total since Round 21, 2011.
Moimoi will need to make a similar impact if the Eels are to be competitive against the Roosters, but he has struggled against them in recent years, averaging just 1.5 tackle-breaks and no offloads in his past six games against the tri-colours. The Eels have won only one of those games.
If Moimoi was able to rack up 158 metres on Friday it would rank as his best-ever total against the Roosters.
The Roosters have scored freely against the Eels, averaging 27 points in games against them over the last decade. That is their highest average against any team during that time.
The Eels have only kept the Roosters to less than 22 points once in their past seven meetings, but they can draw confidence from the fact they have won five of their past six games at Parramatta Stadium and four of their past seven games there against the Roosters.