PARRAMATTA prop Tim Mannah won't bother to ask new Eels coach Ricky Stuart why he wasn't used during the Blues' State of Origin campaign last year because in his heart he knows the reasons.
In 2011, Mannah was unleashed with Josh Dugan, Kade Snowden and Jamie Soward as one of the Blues' troupe of young lions, a group who Stuart, as the then NSW coach, anointed to restore glory to their state's jumper. They lost a well-contested series 2-1, yet, when the code's annual civil war came and quickly rolled by in 2012, Mannah was overlooked and the strains of disappointment are clear in his voice.
''I never asked him about that,'' he said. ''Ricky gave me a call in the lead-up to the series, but from a technical point of view I know 100 per cent why I wasn't there; the team was coming last and I wasn't playing big minutes.
''I'm working hard to get myself back into the frame for the [NSW] team and I'm very happy to have someone like Ricky Stuart to help me with, not only my physical game, but helping me develop my skill set so I become the complete footballer.''
Stuart has already sanctioned the ''rebuilding'' of Mannah by allowing the Prime Minister's XIII representative to whack seven kilos of muscle onto his frame. He finished what he called a ''great Christmas feast'' weighing 110 kilograms.
''We have a new trainer, Trent Elkin, who Ricky brought over from Cronulla, and personally he's been great for me, he's helping me develop physical aspects of my game in terms of power, speed and size,'' Mannah said. ''It's the best I have prepared for a season and the work we're doing is spot on. I'm doing a lot of explosive, power work in the gymnasium and Ricky has also given me the green light to put on some weight because, luckily for me, Ricky likes big front-rowers … that meant I enjoyed Christmas dinner. Last season I finished at 103, this year I'll be hovering around 110.
''I'll be able to drop a kilo, but I'm happy to carry the weight around, it feels good and it's great when you have three to four months to prepare for the season and get used to it.
''In terms of being a front-rower, I think the extra weight - and the explosiveness - will go a long way to helping me.''
However, his quest to be a contributor to Parramatta has been amid a painful backdrop with his brother John fighting cancer.
''To be honest it has been a difficult 18 months,'' he said. ''But I've been lucky that the mentors I've had in the game have helped me realise no matter what is going on off the field, no matter how tough it is, when you get to work you do your job. I have tried to do that.
''Last year, footy-wise, was one of those years where it was tough for everyone here. Mentally it was draining for everyone but I think Ricky's coming in has been great … he's refreshed the place and everyone is working hard and doing what they can for their teammates.''