Eels pay tribute to departing vet Mannah

Veteran Tim Mannah (centre) still leads at Parramatta despite being dropped from first grade.
Veteran Tim Mannah (centre) still leads at Parramatta despite being dropped from first grade.

Barring a front-row crisis he's unlikely to feature in his beloved Eels jumper again, but Tim Mannah's Parramatta teammates insist he remains a driving force during this NRL finals series.

When the Eels take on Melbourne at AAMI Park for a place in an NRL preliminary final on Saturday, Mannah will be 850kms away with feeder side Wentworthville for their NSW Cup finals clash with South Sydney.

The revered figure who stuck solid through the club's dark period over the last decade - which included three wooden spoons - was formally farewelled at the Eels' end-of-season function and faces an uncertain future.

But the likes of Manu Ma'u and Kane Evans said he remained the "heart and soul" of the Eels even though he was no longer in their top 17.

"We train against Wenty, he's still vocal, you can still hear him talk," Ma'u said.

"He's still a leader at this club, everyone's got a lot of respect for Timmy, he's going to be missed. He is the heart and soul.

"If you know him personally, he's got a heart of gold and will do anything for you, he will literally take his shirt off back."

Mannah debuted in 2009, playing in their grand final appearance that year and has been a loyal servant ever since.

But the four-time NSW Origin representative is set to be squeezed out and has yet to announce his plans for next year.

He requested a release to join the Wests Tigers in June, only to perform an about-face and remain but hasn't been sighted in first grade since then.

"His influence is still there," Evans said.

"I don't think any of us would be where we are without him. He leads us in work ethic. He's the man."

If the Eels beat Melbourne Mannah is unlikely to be seen in first grade again this season barring Brad Arthur's side being struck by an injury crisis in the forwards.

But such is the respect he has from his teammates that they spoke of their hope of him receiving one final game.

"When I signed here, he was the first to text me and welcome me into the club," Evans said.

"He's helped me learn to much about my role as a front-rower. He's the heart and soul of this place.

"If he got a chance to play this finals series, that'd be the dream. That'd be the perfect send off. We love Timmy and he's still leading by example."

Australian Associated Press