Lussick at a loss to explain form spike
It's like someone has flicked a switch inside Manly prop Darcy Lussick, who has been close to his team's best every week over the past month or two – but ask the man himself why and you'll get a shrug of the shoulders.
As affable off the field as he is ferocious on it, the 27-year-old has emerged from a three-year period at the Eels where he was in and out of first grade to become one of the real forward leaders in his return to the northern beaches this year.
His explosive starts to games were a big factor in the club stringing four straight wins together and even in their past back-to-back narrow losses against the Eels and Bulldogs, Lussick has been among the maroon-and-whites' best.
"I'm just happy to be back at Manly and my approach to rugby league has changed this year," Lussick said.
"I'm a bit more professional in the way I go about preparing for games and I think it's paying off.
"The main thing is that I'm happy where I am and happy to be playing for Manly.
"I played my 100th game a few weeks ago, so I can't use inexperience as an excuse anymore.
"I guess I just decided to knuckle down and see how I go. And everything is going alright at the moment."
With other forwards like fellow firebrand Marty Taupau and workhorse Jamie Buhrer also in vintage form, Lussick said the players in the pack are feeding off each other, while also looking to avert the constant threat of fringe players taking their spots.
"We all go out to push each other and the thing is we've got a fair bit of depth in our forwards," Lussick added.
"If you don't perform [coach] Trent [Barrett] has showed that if you don't perform he'll mix it up. Every week you go out there is like a test for yourself as you don't want to be replaced."
Lussick's form surge has also coincided with an improved attitude to training, he said.
"Our trainer Dan Ferris has done wonders for myself personally this year and the team. It's enjoyable and I actually enjoy going to training," he said.
"The disappointing thing is that we're out of the semis. It's going to be hard to take in a few weeks when we don't get to play any more, or train any more."
Despite the team being out of finals contention Lussick said there is no danger of their standards slipping.
"We won't be giving up or anything like that. We've pretty much got the same roster for next year," he said.
"The more games we play together the better. Hopefully we start next year on a good note – but most importantly we just want to finish this year well."