Manly coach Trent Barrett saw enough from his team against Parramatta to be confident their best football isn't far away – especially with some injured troops returning soon.
Manly were the better side for much of Thursday night's 22-10 loss to the Eels but couldn't land a killer blow before Parramatta streaked away in the last 10 minutes but speaking after the game Barrett was happy with the commitment shown.
He also refused to blame a tough period of the draw that included three five-day turnarounds and a trip to New Zealand in the space of four rounds.
"We were in front with 10 minutes to go and an opportunity to win. It was a real arm wrestle," Barrett said.
"[There were] two pretty tired teams there at the end. For that 60 minutes or 70 minutes we put a hell of a lot of effort in and probably deserved to win and just needed something to go our way there at the end.
"We've still got a few things to work on, losing the hooker [Matt Parcell to a hammy strain before kick-off] didn't help but I still think we had enough ball to win the game.
"We've still got a few problems in attack we need to fix but certainly never questioned our effort or commitment.
"They were great again but we need to fix those little things so we can finish off those games. Effort alone won't win you those games against good sides so we've got a little bit of work to do there but we're not far away."
Makeshift halves combination Dylan Walker and Api Koroisau continue to exceed expectations with Walker launching a series of kicks that challenged the Eels defence. One go-to kick on the attack was one that screws away off the outside of the boot and should have led to an early try to Brett Stewart, while some sky-scraping bombs gave Clint Gutherson a torrid night though the ex-Manly winger handled the working-over admirably.
Despite forcing three line drop-outs to Parramatta's none (and two of those off the unlikely boot of back-rower Tom Symonds) Manly weren't able to turn the pressure into points, but Barrett wasn't prepared to blame fatigue as his side faded late in the contest.
"I don't want to blame that though because I still think if we took advantage of those good-ball sets we had midway through the second half that we could have put some points on and that probably would have put them to bed. They were tired as well," he said.
"I'm sick of talking about the schedule, it's not going to change and we can't get it back and we're going to have to deal with it. That was our fifth game in 23 days or something and we won three of them so it was a good effort on that part. Winning four out of five would have been terrific but I'm not going to use that as an excuse.
"We're putting in enough effort to get ourselves in the fight but we've got to get a bit of polish on a few of our things. Getting Cherry back in there will help, getting the hooker back in is certainly going to help but it's everyone's responsibility as well."
Jamie Lyon said the side just needs to pose more questions in attack.
"We were in that game right up to the 70th minute mark and [letting in] a couple of tries off kicks didn't help us but after having a few repeat sets up there where we should have scored, we had enough ball there – we just need to ask a few more questions when we're down there attacking their line and we'll get some improvement there," he said.