NRL Rd 18 - Panthers v Eels
PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 11: Clinton Gutherson of the Eels looks on during the round 18 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Parramatta Eels at Panthers Stadium on September 11, 2020 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Parramatta Eels captain and fullback Clint Gutherson is off-contract with the club at the end of 2022 and there's speculation that discussions of a new deal between the two have gotten ugly.

According to Fox League's James Hooper, talks between the Eels front office and Gutherson to strike a new deal have begun, however, the process hasn't be as smooth as it may seem.

While Gutherson is the Eels' captain and certainly their most marketable star player, Hooper believes bad blood that boiled during the teams last negotiations with the fullback may have carried over to this one.

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“A couple of years ago when Clint Gutherson was in his last round of contract negotiations for an extension with the Eels it blew up publicly and it got really ugly,” Hooper told NRL 360.

“Clearly they weren’t all on the same page because initially the club underarmed him, then there was all this propaganda that perhaps his knees were a bit suspect and he wasn’t worth the money.

“In the end they ended up striking a price and doing the deal and he’s been their captain and leader ever since.

“It’s about to kick-off again because Gutho is a free agent as of November 1 and I get the feeling as though behind the scenes there’s a lot going on around this at the moment.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 01: Clint Gutherson of the Eels on his way to a try during the round eight NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Parramatta Eels at Stadium Australia, on May 01, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Hooper also suggested that reports Gutherson was pressuring the Eels to make him a $1 million man were "garbage".

Reporter Paul Kent understands that while Gutherson and his management will certainly be asking for a pay-rise during these upcoming negotiations, there's no indication from his team that they have that type of money in mind.

“I spoke to Sam Ayoub last night who manages him and he said ‘we haven’t even got the figures yet," Kent said.

Kent also pointed to the scrutiny the Eels' recruitment and retention committee has received recently and believes that any shady negotiation tactics, much like the stories that were leaked in the media about Gutherson's 'dodgy knees' during his previous contract talks, are going to put "unfair pressure on that negotiation process".

While Kent believes that whoever leaked Gutherson's million-dollar demand came from inside the club, their remains more questions about who's really heading the Eels organisation.

The obvious disconnect between the coaches and the front office are being put in the spotlight, as Parramatta has rattled off three straight losses, and head coach Brad Arthur finds himself in the firing line.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 27: Eels coach Brad Arthur looks on at the post match media conference at the end of during the round 20 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the the Parramatta Eels at 1300SMILES Stadium on July 27, 2015 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

If these reports stand, and Gutherson and the Eels are unable to find some common-ground before the November 1 deadline, expect there to be plenty of clubs lining up for his services and more questions being asked about whether Parramatta have the structure in place to build and retain a competitive squad as a contract crunch looms.


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