There were times when Manly back-rower Feleti Mateo thought he'd never play 200 games but as he reaches the milestone this weekend he's looking to achieve the sort of consistency that has eluded him throughout his career.
Mateo is also relieved to know he's wanted at Manly next year after reportedly being one of 14 players the club was looking to move on next year despite having another year to run on his two-year contract.
"The latest is I'm staying – I was always going to," Mateo said in response to questions over his playing future.
"I've always said I've got one more year and I'm going to honour that. I've had word they want me to stay so that's a positive thing. To know that I'm wanted is really nice and I'm looking forward to my future."
Mateo has mostly been happy with his form at the Sea Eagles after starting the year strongly, despite the disappointment of an injury setback.
"I thought I started the year well, I got put into five-eighth when Kieran [Foran] got injured then I got injured which set my year back, but I knew if I got healthy I could put in some good footy together and I think that's what I've done," he said.
"It's a positive [feeling at the club], we're winning games which is good. We know we've got a lot to work on if we're going to make the eight so that's our focus."
Mateo racked up almost 100 games at each of his former clubs, Parramatta and the Warriors, before relocating to the northern beaches, and is looking forward to crossing the 200 barrier against the club he debuted for back in 2004.
"200 games is a really big achievement and I'm really excited to do it at Brookvale on a Sunday," he said.
"If there's any place for us to get up for a game that's the place. Hopefully we get a big crowd and get up for the win."
Asked if he was surprised to make it to 200 he laughed: "I was surprised I got there when I got shipped off to England when I was 21! It's a credit to a lot of coaches that believed in me, trainers and medical staff, a lot of people you could thank but for me it was my family who always believed in me, I owe a lot to them and hopefully I get a win for them."
Of his reputation as someone that didn't always reach his unarguably enormous potential, he said there were probably games where he played to his potential but hadn't necessarily maintained it for long stretches.
"I probably haven't been as consistent as I'd like to be with playing to my potential, but that's what I hope I can put forward for the rest of my career and not being known as a guy who didn't fulfil his potential consistently and that's what I really want to do," he said.
"I've done all right – I always looked up to guys that made the 100 mark, 150, I probably didn't think I'd get this far. It's massive to me and I probably haven't thought about it too much.
"For me, all I'll be thinking about this week is getting the win and getting in the eight. It's probably something I'll look back at when the season's done."
The quest to force their way into the top eight continues for Manly in Sunday's grudge match against the Eels – a win of greater than 23 points will see them finish the round inside the top eight for the first time this season.
"Yeah it's going to be huge for us, those guys [Parramatta] have been competing every week, probably not getting the results they want but very competitive and we know what we're up against this week," Mateo said.
Both Mateo and Manly centre Steve Matai feel like the ball is starting to bounce Manly's way after a horror start to the season, as evidenced by a fortuitous leg up against Canberra in Round 23 where the officials missed Brett Stewart scoring the match-winning try from an offside position.
"Over the last month I think there's been certain plays in games and I think it comes down to which team's competing more," Mateo said.
"We were probably lucky last week [with Stewart's try] but over the last month or six weeks we've been the better team competing. When you're playing harder you got those bounces of the ball."
Matai said it seemed like things had started to turn with the big win over the Broncos at Gosford in Round 21.
"I think we started to get a few calls go our way and the bounce of the ball going our way and sometimes you need that to get a bit of confidence and win a few games and I think from that we took it on to the following week and we sort of haven't stopped from there," Matai said.