The day Mannah wanted out of the Eels
He'll complete a real captain's knock when he reaches 150 not out on Sunday afternoon, but there was a time when Tim Mannah was going to fall short of a century at the Eels.
It came almost immediately after the Nathan Hindmarsh era, when the Eels collected their second-straight wooden spoon and he wasn't sure whether Parramatta was the place to be.
"I love the club. Obviously I've been here my whole life," he told NRL.com this week.
"[But] there was a time where the direction of the club was pretty unclear. As a playing group and as an individual, I was wondering whether the place was the right place to be."
The always-affable Mannah wore the losses like a punching bag, but never lost his cool. He wanted to wait it out, take the hits. There were so many times he thought he saw the light at the end of the tunnel, only for the club to turn the corner and plunge further into darkness.
"We've had some real tough times at this club, but ever since Brad's been on board the direction of the club has been very clear and very bright," he said.
"It's definitely the place I want to be and also a lot of other players. You've seen a lot of players show a lot of interest in the club. That just gives credit to the staff and the squad we have here at the moment."
The former NSW prop isn't much of a sentimental bloke, "only because you get so caught up in wanting to get back on track," he says. Except now he can't help but reflect on what he's had to go through to reach this milestone.
"What makes it special is knowing how much I'm enjoying my footy now compared to those years," he said.
"As frustrating as those years were, they definitely made me a lot more appreciative, a lot more grateful now, to be part of the squad I'm in now, to have the coaching staff we have at the moment, and just to see the direction we're heading in."
Having signed on for an extra three years last season, the 27-year-old now has designs on becoming a rare one-club man.
"Absolutely, I do. I love the place. I'd love to be here for my career. This place is pretty special to me. I love the club, I love the city of Parramatta, I love playing with this group of boys that we have as well," he said.
"I think we're building something nicely here as a squad, and it's definitely a place that I want to spend my [entire] career at."
Mannah isn't the only one that will hit a personal milestone on Sunday afternoon.
While the Eels skipper was destined to have a long career in the blue and gold, fate had the once-troubled Sandow on a one-way ticket to Cherbourg.
The enigmatic halfback's issues with alcohol and gambling came to the fore two years ago, when he was first dropped to reserve grade by then-coach Ricky Stuart and then forced to check in to rehab.
And that was when questions were raised on when Sandow's next game would come, let alone his 150th.
"It's massive, especially in NRL teams, because a lot of people don't get to 50 games because of injuries and stuff. So I've been lucky," he said.
"I did have thoughts about going home when things were going wrong. But it takes a good man to stick things out when the going is tough. You've just got to have good people around you in your life and keep them close. They've been a big part of me going forward and I do thank them a lot."
It's been an emotional roller-coaster ride for Sandow at Parramatta, where he remembers first choking on the expectations that came with his hefty price tag.
"Before, I took it personally. I let things get to me, because I wear my heart on my sleeve. But I know how to manage it more now. I've got to work really hard on my game. I'm a naturally gifted football player, but I've got to work hard to keep that under tabs," he said.
"I didn't quite expect the big expectations coming here to Parramatta. I did find that really tough. I had to work really hard – I didn't quite do that at the start – to get my body where it should've been at the time."
Negotiations continue with the Eels on another deal, but whatever the outcome, he says he's more prepared for what's coming at whichever club he plays his football at next season.
"Now, I'm a few years older and a bit more mature and wiser. It takes time as an NRL player, it's not easy. Everyone's looking at you off the field, and everyone wants to bring you down when you're not playing well," he said.
"You've just got to have the right people around you, stick with them. If they make you happy off the field, you're going to be happy on the field."
Video courtest of ParraEels.com.au