Lebanese ancestry driving Mannah
Veteran forward Tim Mannah confesses he's never been to Lebanon but the stories from his family are enough to send shivers down his spine as the side prepares for their clash with France in Canberra on Sunday.
Mannah's parents were born in Lebanon before moving to Australia as young children and have given the Cedars prop enough insight over the years for him to want to visit the country in the future.
"The more sentimental you get, you want to know a bit more about your family's background and your ancestry and where everyone is from," Mannah said ahead of the must-win clash.
"I've been looking into that a bit. Even just hearing stories of my Dad's grandparents and what their lifestyle was like back home in Lebanon.
"They're very resilient over there – they've been through a lot.
"A lot of the Lebanese who came over to Australia left during the civil war in the 1960s and it's just been hit after hit. They live a very good life over there; they enjoy life and understand what life is about.
"I would love to get over there and check it out one day."
Mannah has spoken openly in recent months of the battle Lebanese people face both overseas and in Australia to rectify negative stereotypes in the community.
The squad will travel the least of any nation in the group stages of the Rugby League World Cup with two games scheduled at Sydney's Allianz Stadium after the road trip to Canberra on Sunday.
The 29-year-old believed it was no coincidence organisers have scheduled clashes against heavyweight sides Australia and England in the harbour city.
"Obviously at Parramatta I see the passion, you only have to look at the Sydney teams like the Wests Tigers, Bulldogs, Souths, St George Illawarra," he said of the strong Lebanese following in Sydney.
"In terms of being proud, the more I'm involved with rugby league the more I see how much passion comes out of the Lebanese community.
"I think this is a really good chance for Lebanon to change mindsets we've struggled with for a long time.
"Over the past 10 or 15 years a minority of Lebanese people have really given the broader Lebanese community a bad name and I think it's a great chance for us to go out there on a big platform and big stage [and show] the real Lebanese culture and show everyone the stereotype that we've held for a long time isn't the real culture we have."
Mannah and his Australian-based teammates have played host to five local players from Lebanon in the lead-up to the tournament.
One player – outside back Raymond Sabat – is a part of the final 24-man squad.
"A lot of them speak really good English," Mannah grinned.
"They are very well educated over there and they've come here and really enjoyed being in camp with the boys. It's really interesting to hear their stories, how the game is growing back home and what they have done.
"To speak to them and see the opportunities, it also makes us realise how lucky we are to be doing what we do here in such a great country and playing a sport that we love."
The former New South Wales representative and 200-game NRL veteran has endured a rollercoaster career in the game but rates representing Lebanon on the international stage as brand new territory.
"Those [NRL achievements] are the ones as a professional athlete, that's what you strive for," Mannah said.
"But this is more of a connection, as in you're playing for more than just your professional career. You're playing because you are representing your family and a lot of people who have helped you get to where you are and a lot of people back home who have made you who you are.
"It's been enjoyable. Freddie (coach Brad Fittler) is an expert at creating a good environment for a camp and we've really enjoyed it."