Unwanted by NRL wooden-spooners Parramatta, Justin Horo was preparing to spend 2013 playing park football in France and back-packing around Europe. Instead, he's gearing up for his first ever finals appearance as an integral member of Manly's high-quality back-row. It's a career rebirth that says as much about Horo's ability as the Eels' questionable recruitment and retention policy - that a player of his ilk was not wanted by a club that is about to run last for the second year in a row. Eels fan will be given a stark reminder of what might have been on Saturday night, when Horo returns to Parramatta Stadium for the first time since his departure from the club. Dumped to the NSW Cup by the Eels coach Stephen Kearney after the opening round of the 2012 season - Horo was then told he had no future at the Eels by incoming coach Ricky Stuart. "There were some tough times there, I had a few little niggling injuries that didn't help as well," Horo said of his last season at the Eels. "When they told me I wasn't needed it was a tough time, a dark time for me there. "I was speaking to few clubs ... nothing was really sorted at Manly until the Friday before the Monday start of pre-season. "There was a time there where I was training by myself. "I didn't know what was going on." After a deal to head to Melbourne fell through, Horo was left contemplating his future in the game at age 26. "One of my mates went over and was playing (in the) French rugby league - I had an opportunity to go over there two or three years ago before I made my debut," Horo said. "I probably would have got on the phone and rang him to see if there was opportunity over there and do a bit of travelling and enjoy being in my mid-20s. "It's worked out for the best now." Not only for Horo but for Manly too, the Auckland-born NZ Maori representative proving the perfect - and much cheaper - replacement for Tony Williams. His two tries against Wests Tigers on Monday night took his season tally to eight - his performances earning him a new two-year contract which he is expected to sign this week. And while he admits to feeling for the plight of his former Eels teammates, Horo said there would be no let-up on Saturday night. "I'm close with the boys, I speak to them regularly," Horo said. "I know they're going through a tough time there. "They're going to be desperate next week when we play them - no friends when it comes to next week that's for sure."