Eels club captain Tim Mannah says he won't quite make it back from a fractured shoulder blade in time for the team's Round 8 trip to Townsville this weekend but is eyeing the Bulldogs clash at ANZ the following Friday night.
Mannah ran for the first time on Monday since suffering the cracked scapula against the Wests Tigers in Round 4, though his initial three-week prognosis has now slipped into a fourth week with the rugged prop not yet resuming contact work.
"Yeah it's getting there, I had my first run today which is good. I don't think I'll be right for this week but I'm aiming for next Friday," Mannah told NRL.com at the club's 'Blue and Gold Heart Round' launch at the Careflight operations base at Westmead on Monday.
"It's one of those things, you've got to wait for the bone to heal but it's a bone that's protected by a lot of muscle as well so it doesn't have to be 100 per cent healed. It's just got to be mended and then I'll be right to play. It's not weight bearing."
Mannah was however delighted with the way the side had responded to a last-gasp loss to Penrith over the past fortnight in his absence.
"I'm real proud of the boys, they've had two very contrasting wins, they had the dominant performance against Raiders where they were really on [a 36-6 win at Pirtek Stadium in Round 6], then the performance against Manly [a late 22-10 win at Brookvale on Thursday night] which probably wasn't our best performance but I think we'll get a lot of confidence out of that and a lot of confidence out of the way we played that game," he said.
"It's exciting to see where we're heading but at the same time we can't get too carried away, we've got a really good test on Saturday night [against North Queensland] and it will be interesting to see how we go."
As a veteran of some less than stellar seasons at Parramatta, Mannah said there was a different vibe at the club now that had the team maintaining belief even when the ball wasn't bouncing their way, as it didn't in their three disallowed tries on Thursday.
"Our ability to be a team that hangs in longer is something we haven't had for a while and it's a pleasing thing to have in a team," Mannah said.
"Penrith was a bit of a blip, it wasn't something that I thought represented our character very much. Manly was a bit more like what we pride ourselves on and the kind of team we want to be.
"Our attack still hasn't reached the heights we want to reach but as long as our defence is doing the job and winning us games we can take time to develop those combinations and the partnerships. I'm really pleased with how we're travelling."
Mannah also had some praise for the player who has been keeping his starting prop jersey warm over the past fortnight in bustling young prop Daniel Alvaro.
"I'm a big fan of the 'Polar', he's just got a great work ethic," Mannah said.
"He's one of those players you love having in your team so I'm really proud of him, he deserves to be doing his thing and he's doing a great job.
"His work rate is amazing. That's his thing, his thing is he's not scared of doing the hard work and he gets it done."
Mannah was hopeful the team's confidence boosting win over the premiers in Round 2 would stand them in good stead when they take on the NRL's toughest road trip this weekend.
"At home this year they've been unbelievable and it's going to be a good test for us to see how we go but I think that's kind of what you want, you want to test yourselves against the best and it's a good opportunity for us to do it," he said.
"We came off with the right result the last time we played them a few weeks ago and our defence had a big part to do with that so hopefully we can do the same thing this time."