Eels playmaker Corey Norman's first NRL game in eight months ended the same way his previous one did: he was the best player on the field and produced a stunning kicking game to lead his team to victory. Yet he himself can only see things that need improvement.
A full 241 days had elapsed since Norman walked off Pirtek Stadium on July 8th last year having just set up all four of his team's tries in a tight 22-18 win over the Roosters. On that night, rookie fullback Latrell Mitchell was tormented by Norman's magical boot.
It was the last game he played before an eight-game ban – imposed by the club in consultation with the NRL Integrity Unit in response to a range of off-field indiscretions – ended a season in which he may otherwise have challenged for the Dally M Medal.
Having not played for so long, Norman was pretty happy to just be out on the field again. And while he played a crucial role in his team's win, both he and his coach felt he had plenty of improvement left in him once his match fitness returns.
Those highlights included setting up most of his team's seven forced drop outs with deft short kicks, one stunning long-range match-turning 40/20 kick, a nice solo try and a slick pass to help create another.
"I didn't want to try and do too much, I just had to play my bit," Norman said after the game.
"That first half I was blowing. I kind of found my second wind there and in the second half I was a bit tired. It's going to take a couple of weeks and I know that.
"It's good to play football again, I haven't played football for ages. As a club it's good to get a win like that. An ugly win. We'll take it."
Pressed as to why he was disappointed in his own performance he added: "Just because I was a bit tired and a few plays there it wasn't good enough and a few of my kicks too.
"Like I said I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, I missed a fair bit of footy but it was good."
The combination between himself and five-eighth Clint Gutherson – along with hooker Kaysa Pritchard and fullback Bevan French – is s totally new one and he said it will take time to develop.
"That's the first game we've played together... we've got a lot to improve on but we've got a good relationship off the field as well which I think is important as well. We kind of clicked there but we were still pretty rusty," he added.
He insisted he got "a bit lucky" with his try because his kick deflected off a Manly player while his 40/20 was "an absolute fluke".
"It was a good bounce mate, good bounce. But we'll take that!" he laughed.
His coach Brad Arthur was very reserved in his praise of his star playmaker.
"Yeah he was good but I thought he was out on his feet," Arthur said in his post-game press conference.
"He's going to get better for us. He's not real happy with how he played so that's good that he's setting high expectations but he definitely made a difference for us."