Eels flyer Bevan French says Clint Gutherson is the most in-form player in the competition – but is nevertheless ready to return to the custodian role for Parramatta with Gutherson ruled out for the remainder of the season with a ruptured ACL.
There were concerns after Sunday's 17-16 win over Wests Tigers that a late try-saving tackle from Michael Chee Kam on Gutherson – in which the fullback's knee twisted awkwardly – could put the former Sea Eagle on the sidelines for an extended period.
Scans on Sunday night revealed the full extent of the injury, French ready to return to his preferred fullback spot which would also result in a recall for Kirisome Auva'a on the wing for Friday night's match against the Broncos.
"It does open up a door for me to have a crack at that position again but it's pretty sad [that is the case]," French said.
"I think he's been the most in-form player in the competition so far this season so although it does open up a door for me it is disappointing."
Gutherson has been arguably the most important player in Parramatta's charge to seventh place after 20 rounds – having not featured in the finals since 2009 – and is currently fourth in NRL.com's unofficial Dally M tally.
"Personally and I think the rest of the team agrees with me [he is the form player in the NRL]," French continued.
"We pick up on the little things that most people that watch the footy don't really pick up on but I'll back my comment there saying he's probably up there with the most in-form players at the moment in the comp."
One silver lining is the improved depth at the club compared to last year, he added.
"We've got that this year and if 'Hoffy' (Josh Hoffman) or Kirisome come into that role they'll make the most of their opportunity. They're both experienced players with Somi winning a premiership and Hoffy is a Test player so it's good we have a bit of depth there."
French also had his coach's support if he is required to go back to fullback.
"At the end of the day, long-term I think Bev's going to be a fullback," Arthur said.
"Gutho was just in really good form and Bevan was hoping to get that spot, but Bev can slot straight in there. We've got a few blokes coming back next week too, which will help."