On the same day they announced the signing of Paul McGregor and Michael Ennis as assistant coaches, the Parramatta Eels were forced to respond to speculation surrounding a number of off-contract stars.
McGregor, who was sacked in 2020 after a seven-year spell as head coach of St George Illawarra, and Ennis, who has worked as a consultant for Canberra for the last three years, were added to Brad Arthur's backroom team on Friday.
It comes as the Eels moved to quell the media attention which has grown over the last week since the NRL's November 1 deadline passed.
Captain Clint Gutherson, hooker Reed Mahoney, prop Junior Paulo and the backrow trio of Isaiah Papalii, Marata Niukore and Ryan Matterson are all free to speak to rival clubs this off-season.
With less than 12 months left on their respective contracts and increased speculation every day, Parramatta came out fighting.
“The media has a job to do in reporting player movements which we respect as we understand the public interest in our players,” the Eels said.
“Over the last six months, we have regularly engaged with all our players and their managers in a private and productive manner, balancing the club's intent to ensure players are paid fairly and their value is appropriately recognised, whilst ensuring we are assembling our strongest possible roster year on year.
“Our approach is not to engage publicly in speculation regarding player negotiations.
“It is disrespectful to the players involved, is unhelpful in building a team that is set up for success, and most importantly, goes against how we aim to operate as a club.”
The Eels' decision to leave six of their most high-profile players could prove costly with the NRL's salary cap likely to mean they are outbid by rival clubs.
Paulo is a NSW Origin prop who will command big offers, while Mahoney is on the hit list of the NRL's 17th team, the Dolphins.
Papalii has reportedly turned down the club's initial offer and will opt to test the market as Niukore continues to be linked with a move to the Warriors and Dragons.
It is the contract of captain Gutherson, though, which is the most delicate given how protracted his last negotiations were in 2019.
The fullback re-signed with the club but each and every turn of the talks were leaked to the media.
The Eels concluded by saying that they were optimistic that talks would reach a positive conclusion.
“To date, our discussions with players and their managers have been robust, professional and constructive,” the club added.
“These discussions are ongoing and we look forward to updating you shortly with some exciting news on our roster for 2022, 2023 and beyond.”Internet Explorer Channel Network