Curtis Sironen rates Manly's current side as the best he has played in across eight years of first grade, vowing to make a bigger finals dent than his lone post-season appearance two years ago.
Sironen returns from a hamstring injury for the Sea Eagles' showdown with ladder-leaders Melbourne at what is hoped to be a sold-out Lottoland on Saturday evening.
The revival of the famed Eagles-Storm rivalry along with Manly's own resurgence under Des Hasler has club officials hoping for a crowd in excess of 18,000, a feat not achieved since late in 2014.
Sironen meanwhile acknowledges the rare company he is keeping on the Northern Beaches, with Manly bidding for their first top-four appearance in five years and the back-rower just his second finals outing in eight seasons of first grade.
The former Tiger's sole September soiree came in 2017, when Penrith knocked eighth-placed Manly out in the first week and Trent Barrett copped a $20,000 fine for blowing up over the officiating in the 22-10 loss.
Hasler brings passion back to Manly
"I can see the team we have now and how much we've learned from that," Sironen said on Wednesday.
"When we're in the same position this year I know that we'll be able to handle it differently.
"We were sort of, not making up numbers, but I think just even making the eight was a good effort. But now we've got a new confidence in ourselves.
"This year is going to be a different story. But we've just got to worry about getting there.
"I've never really been in a team that's been in the top four to be honest… but we can't get ahead of ourselves. We haven't really done anything yet.
"If you get knocked out in the first week of the semis it's all for nothing.
"We've got two big games, if we drop the two big games we could finish sixth or seventh and then you could be [out] in the first week of finals."
Having debuted with the Tigers in 2012 before moving to Manly at the start of 2017, Sironen recalled pushing himself to "get back a week early" from a ruptured pectoral to feature in the Sea Eagles brief finals campaign two years ago.
Gosiewski: Fonua-Blake just being himself
He holds no such concerns for his hamstring as he returns to Manly's right edge.
Jack Gosiewski comes onto the opposite side as Joel Thompson's replacement after the veteran back-rower underwent successful surgery on a broken arm on Tuesday.
NRL.com understands that Thompson's one-year contract extension will not be impacted by what is feared to be a season-ending injury, while Manly are holding out hope he could still play again if they go deep in the semis.
"He's alright, he was on the morphine last night after surgery and pretty positive," Sironen said.
"It's good to have a little target there for Thommo. He will hopefully be back and ripping in and hopefully we can give him a hand.
"He is going to be a massive loss for us. Thommo has been one of most consistent players for us all year.
"But if we can get him back, he deserves to be playing finals football so hopefully we can."