English Test forward and 2014 Parramatta recruit Lee Mossop says he will look to ease his way back to form and fitness as he continues his comeback from off-season shoulder surgery.
The news that the back-to-back wooden spooners would be without a high-profile recruit for the first couple of months of the competition was initially a huge blow, but his absence was tempered somewhat by the powerful early season form of players like Pauli Pauli and, more recently, Junior Paulo.
But with Darcy Lussick (knee) and Mitch Allgood (suspension) currently unavailable, and with Mossop having two games under his belt in the NSW Cup for Wentworthville, the time seemed right to bring him into the first grade 17 against the Cowboys in Round 13.
After the game, Mossop – who had a hand in setting up two tries in two games for Wentworthville before a solid first outing for the Eels – told NRL.com he was happy to take it slowly in the frenetic competition.
"I think it's going to take me a few weeks to get up to speed and put in the performances I'd like to be putting together but as a first hit-out I'm pretty happy," he said.
"I've worked hard, as I've been injured I've been able to do a lot of fitness work and catch up so I don't feel too much out of place and hopefully in a couple of weeks I'll be able to put in the performances that I'm wanting to deliver."
Mossop said the strength of the second tier competition in Australia is much higher than back in England, which also helped bring him up to speed.
"That was perfect for me, back home that's where we [the UK Super League] probably let ourselves down, the competition underneath the first competition's next to non-existent," he said.
"But here playing for the reserves it's a real high standard so it wasn't such a big jump from that to the NRL, so it eased me into it. I think we played against two of the better teams in Cronulla and St George so it's all been pretty good, my build-up into the NRL."
Like many UK players who come to Australia, Mossop also noticed the speed of the ruck was significantly higher.
"Back in England if you're to dominate a tackle the referee will let you lay on there a second or two longer, whereas here it's just the speed, that's the toughest thing to get used to but I think I've done all right."
While Mossop is a forward with a handy offload and the ability to ball-play close to the line, he said he would be keeping things simple in the short term before showing his full repertoire.
"I think that's one of the main things Brad [coach Brad Arthur] is looking for us forwards to do, is not just be that one dimensional style, have that offload and that pass play in us," he said.
"But to be honest in our first hit-out [last Friday] I just wanted to do the basics right and do the hard yards and the things the crowd might not necessarily notice but do that hard stuff for the team. Once I get my fitness up and my rhythm that's when I'll start to do that sort of stuff."
That match against the Cowboys was also Mossop's first alongside star fullback Jarryd Hayne.
"He's a talent isn't he?" Mossop asked, somewhat rhetorically, before catching himself.
"That's probably an understatement!" he laughed. "He's playing outstanding. To be on the back of that and for him to score the tries it makes what we do up the middle worthwhile. You've got the wingers and Jarryd Hayne and the halves who've got that freakish skill and can finish the tries, it makes it worthwhile."
He said it was also fantastic to see the huge level of support the Eels enjoyed despite a couple of tough years.
"It is pretty special, on the back of two wooden spoons, it shows how loyal and how passionate the fans are and it's something I'm used to from back at Wigan," he said.
"It's something I'm really enjoying. It might be a cliché but they're like the 18th man at times with the noise they make, as you've seen there the last five minutes when we're holding onto a game, the noise they make, it really does make a difference and it's good to play in front of."
He said the side was reasonably happy to be placed just two competition points behind ladder leaders Penrith but with the evenness of the competition and the Eels' poor for-and-against they currently sit in eighth place.
"It is a close competition. Obviously we're still looking to improve, there's a lot of things where we need to improve. There's a couple of games we've slipped up on where we possibly could have won," he said.
"But we're pretty happy with how we're going and personally I just want to string some games together now and do my part for the team and keep improving for the team to ensure that we can kick on and not just be a top eight team but a top four team – that's where we want to head."