Star five-eighth Kieran Foran says Manly is still capable of securing a top-four berth by season's end, despite their recent run of losses and injury concerns.
The Sea Eagles suffered their fourth defeat in seven games on Friday night, going down 20-12 in a hard-fought battle against ladder-leaders Canterbury at Brookvale Oval.
Foran said the match was a real step up from any other game played this season and had set the bar high for the remaining six rounds.
"I thought it was a real high-quality game from both sides," he said of his first clash against the Bulldogs with former Manly coach Des Hasler at the helm.
"I thought they played tremendously well, I thought we played well.
"From here on in it's just about going up a new level each game and getting better each week so that you can prepare yourself as best (you can for when) you're in that (top) eight."
The Sea Eagles playmaker said he is reasonably happy with how the season's panned out so far but admitted it hadn't all been smooth sailing.
"It has been a pretty interrupted year with injuries and suspension, so it has been hard to get a read on it," he said.
"But we know we've got six real tough games to finish the year off, we've just got to try win most of those and try and get a top-four spot if we can."
The Sea Eagles currently sit seventh on the NRL ladder and next week face the Warriors, who are one of three teams vying for a spot in the top eight with just two points the difference.
A loss to them could not only affect their chances of finishing in the top four but also impact on their standing in the top eight, with the likes of North Queensland, South Sydney and Brisbane still ahead of them.
"It is a really tough competition at the moment and every game's crucial but yeah I think we've still got the top four in sight," Foran said.
"(Not making the finals) certainly hasn't come into our head.
"We know we're a better football side than that to miss out on the eight, we've just got to keep getting better each week."