Hardball: Eels ready to pull Gutherson offer
RELATIONS between Parramatta and Clint Gutherson's manager have slumped to a new low with talks between the two parties over a new contract close to collapsing.
Frustrated Eels officials are poised to sensationally withdraw their contract offer for their captain in protest at the public way the negotiations have been played out.
Gutherson's manager Sam Ayoub hit back on Monday, labelling Parramatta's behaviour "embarrassing".
It comes as the Eels close in on re-signing coach Brad Arthur in a welcome boost for the club.
The Eels are set to give Gutherson a deadline of Friday to agree to the Eels' offer of a three-year $1.95 million deal. Ayoub and Gutherson have been holding out for $700,000 over four years.
Negotiations between both parties started way back in November last year.
The exasperation from both parties has slowly increased every week and some Parramatta players are also becoming frustrated at the headlines Gutherson's contract dialogue has attracted.
The Eels are also tired of the commentary around their talks with Gutherson, who comes off contract at season's end.
Senior Eels officials have accused Ayoub of playing out the negotiations in public through the media, but the veteran player agent says it is the club pushing its agenda through media channels.
Ayoub even claimed he knew nothing of the proposed deadline placed on Gutherson, despite it appearing on the NRL's website late on Monday.
The Eels firmly believe Ayoub is trying to "embarrass" the club into signing Gutherson and the manager has made negotiations "personal."
One source close to Parramatta said "It's up to Clint to pull his manager into line and Clint's not doing that so it's no point discussing it any further."
Gutherson, 24, fully supports Ayoub and the manager's quest to negotiate the best possible deal. Ayoub is known to be a tough and shrewd negotiator but Eels officials aren't budging on the three-year offer.
"For the record, and given that I have avoided doing negotiations through the media, as they obviously have by another story to try and prop themselves up, they have been embarrassingly poor throughout this whole process. I am happy to say that," Ayoub said on Monday.
"I have avoided commenting on them throughout this process. They started by low-balling him and then on by trying to devalue him by saying he's got a crook knee. They then tried to say he wasn't worth the money.
"Then, to continue on with that, I met with Mark (O'Neill, Parramatta general manager) last Tuesday, at his request, and he went away and said he would put something to me that day or the next day. I've received nothing, heard nothing, only to be told there is going to be a deadline.
"I jotted down some terms that Mark could go away with and come back to me, potentially for me to take back to Gutho. I still haven't received anything. So who is the problem? You figure it.
"I am the last person to have submitted terms to them. Given it has taken them six months to get to this stage … they can answer their situation to their fans. They are the ones who are answerable, not me or anybody else."
The Eels have 14 players off contract at season's end, including halfback Mitch Moses, but none have attracted the same public attention as the Gutherson deal.
This latest twist comes after Gutherson's Eels were humiliated 64-10 by Melbourne Storm during Magic Round in Brisbane.
Despite that loss, it hasn't deterred the Eels' intentions to re-sign coach Arthur.
The Eels initially announced they would delay any decision on Arthur's future until June - they wanted to give the coach time to prove he was the man to make them forward under their new football department structure.
However, it is understood they have fast-tracked the process and talks have reached a point where Arthur could be retained within weeks.
Arthur has led Parramatta to five wins in their opening nine games this season and there have been whispers that he is in the sights of at least one rival.
That, along with the club's impressive start to the season, has likely prompted the Eels decision to expedite talks with their coach as they look to provide some stability at a time when the club has a coterie of players coming off contract.
Arthur is in his sixth season as head coach of the club, having provided a steady hand on the tiller during a period marked by tumult on and off the field.
The Eels and Arthur were forced to endure a salary cap scandal in 2016 and then finished last year with the wooden spoon, leaving the coach to audition for his job over the opening months of this season.
Parramatta have done enough in that time to convince Eels bosses that he is the man to guide them into the future. If they are unable to strike a deal, Arthur appears likely to have options.
At least one club had been keeping an eye on proceedings at Parramatta in case they were forced to go to market to find a new coach.
Gold Coast and the side they host this weekend - Canterbury - have both struggled this season and their coaches - Garth Brennan and Dean Pay - are under pressure to turn around results over the remaining months of the year.
Things can quickly turn. Newcastle coach Nathan Brown was under the same pressure only a matter of weeks ago but has won three straight games to ease the doubt around his job.
The winner of the Titans-Bulldogs game this weekend is likely to have the pressure eased. The loser will be under immense pressure, although should Arthur re-sign it would take one attractive option off the market for those sides.
Arthur's future is also likely to have an influence on Gutherson.