Eels coach Brad Arthur praised his forwards and rep contingent for creating the foundations for a come-from-behind 22-16 win over the Raiders at Darwin's TIO Stadium on Saturday night.
Arthur revealed he had asked players like Junior Paulo (Samoa), Man Ma'u (Tonga), Peni Terepo (Tonga) and Blake Ferguson (NSW Origin) to show the way – and they did.
Ferguson scored a brace. But the unseen heroics were among the forwards.
Props Kane Evans and Paulo each ran over 110 metres as did lock Nathan Brown.
David Gower ran for 102 metres in 42 minutes off the bench, while Tepai Moeroa ran 106 metres in 30 minutes. Both men had four tackle-busts each.
"We've gone 15 weeks straight ... we had quite a few of them play in the rep round last week," Arthur said.
"We challenged them about backing up and they did a really good job for us.
Match Highlights: Eels v Raiders
"I thought Junior [Paulo] was outstanding tonight on the back of a man-of-the-match performance last week for his country.
"I thought our middles, our big fellas, did a really good job especially at the back end of the game.
"Blokes fronted up with the right effort and mentality. We were able to rely on 17 players tonight."
Arthur finally had young five-eighth Dylan Brown return from a stress fracture in his lower back. He had the big Raiders men run at him most of the night, making 24 tackles, missing just two. His speed and cunning on the left edge were there in patches.
"It was always going to be hard for him tonight ... but he's going to get better and I thought he did a reasonable job tonight," Arthur said.
"Our expectations weren't too high for him tonight ... he'll be fine."
What didn't please Arthur was not completing just 28 of 41 sets.
"Sixty per cent completions aren't good enough. We can't complete last time [Broncos] at 90 per cent and then complete like that tonight," he said.
"It was more about our mentality of thinking we had to score every time we touched the ball. We can't have that."
He also doesn't want his players having to crawl back from large leads. But even at 16-0 after 30 minutes against Canberra, Arthur hadn't given up hope.
Ferguson avoids the touchline to score another Eels try
"We made two or three clean line breaks but we just lacked patience," he said.
"As a footy team we've got to learn that we don't have to score off every play. We've got to be able to grind and build and build.
"Sometimes you're not going to be at your best but you've got to try and find a way to keep yourself in the game and fight back – which we did at 16-0.
"Maybe five weeks ago we wouldn't have been tough enough to do that.
"We've still got a long way to go. One scrappy win like that is not going to get me too excited. I need to see it more often."