Parramatta CEO Scott Seward has revealed the club has reached out to disgruntled Manly second-rower Anthony Watmough about the possibility of joining the Eels next season – but only if he wants out.
Speaking at Tuesday night's Ken Thornett medal presentation, Seward said there was enough room in the Eels' salary cap to squeeze Watmough into their squad, but insisted discussions have yet to begin with his management about next year or beyond.
"We've indicated to his management that if there is an opportunity, we would speak. We're not talking about 2016. We'll see what happens when it takes place," Seward told NRL.com.
"He's under contract at Manly. We respect that. [But] I don't think any club would be truthful in saying they wouldn't be interested in someone of Anthony's calibre if he was available.
"If he's available, we'd certainly have a chat to him. But as far as we're concerned, he's under contract with Manly next year and we'll deal with it if the opportunity arises."
The Sea Eagles veteran moved quickly last week to hose down reports that he had already agreed on a three-year contract with the Eels, beginning in 2016.
But a move west is now a genuine possibility should the Brookvale club grant Watmough a release from the final year of his contract.
A report earlier this year revealed Parramatta were paying around $750,000 in wages for players no longer at the club, but Seward said they now had enough room to fit a player of Watmough's calibre.
The Eels on Tuesday night farewelled Ken Sio (Hull KR), Ben Smith (retired), Kelepi Tanginoa (North Queensland), Willie Tonga (Catalans), and Fuifui Moimoi (off-contract).
Moimoi is understood to be close to signing a deal to play in the Super League.
"Our cap position is a moving beast, like most clubs' would be. We wouldn't be in a position to get someone of Anthony's stature without making some moves. We've obviously made some moves through the year, [and] we got other items that we need to fix first," Seward said.
"Trying to fix a salary cap that was a mess for a period of time, you can't do in 12 months. We've got to have a little bit of pain. We've had to make some tough decisions and probably lost a couple of players we may not have wanted to or chosen to.
"But in the overall scheme of trying to correct the salary cap, we had to do it to present a team that Brad wants, to put out there that we think we can win."
While the short-term future of Watmough remains in flux, Seward stressed that re-signing skipper Jarryd Hayne, who is off contract at the end of next season, was "priority number one, two and three for our football club".
"Maybe even four and five," he said. "Most importantly, Jarryd's under contract for next year. So we're not under any threat there. We'll be doing everything to ensure Jarryd plays out his career in blue and gold. We think we're a lot closer now than what we were 12 months ago."
While the Eels boss doesn't believe rival code rugby union – or even the NFL – will be a major threat to keeping their franchise player, Seward said he wouldn't be afraid of asking the NRL for help.
"I think if our game is going to continue to grow, key icons like Jarryd Hayne can't even be discussed about going to other codes," he said.
"I wouldn't expect that the NRL would be helping anyone keep a player from going to another club. I would think that would be wrong. But I wouldn't like to see Jarryd playing rugby union.
"If that was a discussion, we'd certainly be talking to the NRL and I would think the NRL would be doing everything they can to keep Jarryd Hayne playing rugby league."
Meanwhile, shovels will hit the dirt in about a month's time as the club begins its two-year development of a new high performance centre and training facility at Old Saleyards and Dan Mahoney Reserve in North Parramatta.
The club expects to have two training fields ready by the start of February, with a new training base to be constructed soon after that.
"You've probably seen our performances obviously not this year, but in years before that, we were getting left behind," Seward said.
"Asking players to train on four different local suburban parks highlights the types of injury concerns... it's just unprofessional.
"When you're competing against other clubs, and you can take them to Belmore Sportsgound or a Redfern Oval, and you take them to ours, we can't actually take you to a base. It's tough. It's exciting, but it's also necessary for us to compete at the proper level."