Contract frustration bubbling over at Parramatta
PARRAMATTA'S procrastination over contract negotiations with coach Brad Arthur and gun players Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson continues to raise eyebrows.
Influential figures at the club have questioned why the future of the trio is yet to be sorted, given all three can sign deals with a rival for next year.
Communication between the club, Moses, Gutherson and Arthur remains regular and open - Eels general manager of football Mark O'Neill met with Gutherson's manager, Sam Ayoub, last week, but no deal was struck.
"We are just waiting on them. The ball is in Parramatta's court. I'd be lying if I said anything more," Ayoub said.
It's understood Parramatta and Arthur are yet to even start formal negotiations despite the club's three wins from four games to start 2019.
The club had given Arthur until June to show he could lead the side to success after last year's wooden spoon finish, before they would re-sign him.
But that is causing delays with captain Gutherson, who wants to know the coaching future at the Eels before he inks a new deal.
Arthur and Parramatta recruitment manager Peter Sharp are believed to want to re-sign both Gutherson and Moses immediately, given their good form and future prospects, but insiders say there is debate over the value and duration of their offers.
Eels chief executive Bernie Gurr denied the club was delaying or deferring any deals.
One source closely connected with the club: "It's important the club gets some direction to know who will be in charge? It should be Brad but if not, then let the players know where the club is going.
"Brad has been there six years now. Last year wasn't good enough but the club has learnt from it. At some stage they will have to back him. Mitchell and 'Gutho' want to stay but they just want some clarity about what's going on.
"If a top-level coach is coming in then the players would probably stay but they just want to know what they're signing up for. Mitchell and Gutho could get a game at any club. Their managers won't lock them in until they know the players are in the right hands moving forward."
Gutherson especially is a key re-signing. At 24 he is already a proven leader, captaining the club this season. His link-up play from fullback also ignites the Eels' attack.
North Queensland are without a top fullback, given Ben Barba's preseason axing. Although their priority would be to sign Valentine Holmes should he return to the NRL.
It's unlikely Gutherson would return to Manly, where he made his first grade debut.
"We spoke to Brad a number of weeks ago around putting some time perimeters in and Brad and the club were comfortable with those perimeters," Gurr said.
"Coming off a wooden spoon, it gave Brad and his coaching staff and opportunity to have a reasonable number of games to determine how the club was travelling in 2019.
"The comment I will make around the players is that Mark O'Neill - our general manager of football - is handling our negotiations around recruitment and retention and it is my clear understanding that he is in constant communication with Clint Gutherson's manager (Ayoub) and Mitchell Moses' manager (Issac Moses)."
Ayoub added: "It's water off a duck's back for Clint. I don't want to play this through the media. He wants to leave it with me."
Arthur could not be contacted. Parramatta play Canberra in the 6pm match on Sunday at GIO Stadium before their first game at Bankwest Stadium against Wests Tigers on what will be a sold-out Easter Monday.