Friends set to go toe-to-toe in the forward pack this week

In what shapes to be a blockbuster clash at ANZ Stadium on Friday night between the Eels and the Bulldogs, there are two friends, on opposite sides, vying for bragging rights by the end of the game.

Having played together as front-row partners for the Australian Schoolboys side back in 2006, then being roomed together for the Junior Kangaroos tour in 2007, opposing props Aiden Tolman and Tim Mannah are the best of mates.

That friendship is put on hold however, as the Eels and the Bulldogs face each other tomorrow night, as they collide head-on, in what should be an entertaining affair.

Despite being strong candidates to once again play alongside each other, this time at Origin level, both Tolman and Mannah are focusing on the job at hand, and that is, their much anticipated clash this Friday night.

“They always say you make friendships that will last a lifetime, and I definitely did that on tour. We are still really good mates,” Mannah said.

“Out of all the boys to come out of that age group, I’ve always said that Aiden was one of my favourites to play with, he is just a real work-horse and he is showing that now in the NRL.

“I really get along well with Aiden, every time we hang out, it is like no time has passed.”

Some of Mannah’s earliest memories of Tolman during those series they played alongside each other, was knowing that Tolman was destined to play in the NRL one day, which he is obviously now doing.

“Aiden was always going to make it in footy, he just has a tremendous work ethic,” he said.

“He always puts his hand up to do the dirty work, and as his front-row partner it was great to play alongside him.

“He was always busy on the field, especially with the runs that no-one else wanted to make, those hard yards, he was always first to do them.”

With Mannah having already played Origin, he is eager to get another chance to do so, but he also knows that Tolman is exactly the sort of player that is built for Origin clashes.

Nothing has changed in the years that have passed, you know when you come up against Aiden that he will just keep coming at you and he is consistent week in, week out,” he said.

“I couldn’t be happier for him if he got a crack at Origin, he is the kind of player you want in your corner and you love having in the team.

“If the chance ever arose for us to play together in Origin, that would be really special.”

Whilst is passion for the Eels is great, Mannah’s passion for the NSW Blues is just as strong, but for Mannah, it is all about taking it one game a time.

“Playing State of Origin did a lot for me, I’ll never forget the experience,” he said.

“Going into camp was all a bit surreal, to be around players that I had looked up to since I was a kid like Trent Barrett and Paul Gallen, and seeing the way they handle themselves, and the way they train, you learn so much.

“Playing Origin just makes you that much more hungry, I’ve got a taste of it now, I’ve never been more hungry.   It is something you really want to be a part of. Big time.

“But that is all really out of my control, I don’t think about it, my role and number one focus is with Parramatta and we have a big job to do on Friday night.”

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