French adapts to life without his PCL
While a ruptured PCL did not put talented Eels fullback Bevan French on the sidelines for too long, the fleet-footed Tingha product is still in the process of adapting to football with no posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
When French twisted his left knee at training back in Round 6, there were initial fears of a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury.
However French ended up missing just five games, which was a blessing for coach Brad Arthur given the injury curse that saw stars Corey Norman and Michael Jennings headlining a lengthy injury list.
Unlike an ACL, PCLs aren't necessary for the knee to function but French said it did take some getting used to the change in stability, a process he is still adjusting to.
"It has been a bit hard," French confessed at an Eels media session ahead of a Round 15 clash with the Dragons.
"I knew coming back it would take a bit of time for my knee getting used to playing without the ligament there."
Despite the result against the Cowboys in Darwin last week, French said he got some confidence out of the game personally.
"I thought it was my best game since I've been back," he said after setting match-highs in tackle busts (seven) and kicks defused (three) in the 32-6 loss. "Each week it'll get more confident."
The biggest differences French has found without the ligament there are in stability and agility – pretty key areas for a fullback whose game is based largely around speed, evasiveness and footwork.
"My first few weeks back my straight running was sweet but side to side I struggled a bit," he said.
"The game on the weekend I felt a lot better going side to side. It's only going to keep better. I've got to adapt to it and it will feel normal in the next couple of weeks."
The other immediate challenge for French to adapt to is a new playmaking roster at the Eels, with Saturday's loss to the Cowboys the first game new recruit Mitch Moses has played alongside senior half Corey Norman.
It would be unkind to blame the huge loss on the new halves combination given how thoroughly the Cowboys outplayed the Eels on Saturday but no doubt the new combinations will take some time to get used to.
"Yeah we can't dish up a performance like that again. Our effort was there but I think everyone needs to own their role and attention to detail we need to pick up before we take on the Dragons," French said.
"[The combinations are] going pretty good. [It was] Mitch and Normy's first game on the weekend and you saw the effects of that. It's only going to get better each week.
"The boys are very confident in what we can produce. It's not just them with how the spine is coming along. It's every player in the 17; on the weekend we were all off our game. We have to pick that up if we're going to be playing finals footy."
Moses will have plenty of eyes on him every time he plays given his high-profile mid-season switch from the Wests Tigers and he was always going to take time to find his feet in a new system. While his defence has come in for particular criticism, French said it was unfair to blame one new player when the team as a whole isn't firing.
"It doesn't just come down to Mitch. It's everyone else in the team," French said.
"If everyone else in the team is not playing good then you can't expect him to pull a rabbit out of the hat and make things happen. If the whole team is going well you'll see Mitch going well."
The fullback said combination between himself, Moses and Norman – plus hooker Kaysa Pritchard – was developing quickly at training.
"Me and Mitch formed a pretty good relationship and I've had Normy there for a couple of games last year and the start of this year," he said.
"That will all come along with time together. We do it well at training but when we get to the game our preparation side of things – it only takes two or three players not to be on their game and it puts everyone else out.
"It's not just us three preparing and focusing on ourselves. We have the whole team during video and we talk about the whole team being on. We can't just have us three working well and the rest of the team not preparing well. We are doing everything as a squad because it's mostly the squad that are having a few concentration lapses that are hurting us."