A commitment from the Parramatta Eels to upgrade Clint Gutherson’s 2019 contract was the sweetener that helped seal the skipper’s three-year extension overnight.
NRL.com understands the Eels have decided to bump up Gutherson’s current deal, using the money they haven’t spent in this year’s salary cap to reward Gutherson for his strong start to the year.
While the Eels didn’t want to budge on the three-year term they offered despite Gutherson’s hope of landing a fourth season, the club proposed a contract upgrade for 2019 in recent meetings with his manager.
The Eels have a substantial amount they haven’t spent in this year’s salary cap, hence their desire to search the marketplace to build on their roster before the June 30 player transfer deadline.
Gutherson’s intention has always been to stay at the club, which only intensified when the Blue & Gold decided to keep coach Brad Arthur at the helm for another two years.
He has been hurt by recent criticism from his own fans frustrated with the protracted negotiations, however there's no denying he's been the heart and soul of the club throughout a rollercoaster period in the Eels' history.
Despite being heavily criticised for their strategy, the Eels have now secured two major coups in the space of 48 hours, plus $15 million from the Federal Government for their new high-performance centre in Kellyville.
The attention now turns to halfback Mitchell Moses, who has been offered a three-year deal to remain at the Eels until 2022 – the same year Gutherson is off contract.
NRL.com understands Moses had told Gutherson he wouldn’t sign until the fullback’s future was sorted, however the clarity around the skipper’s future is likely to expedite discussions with the No.7.
The club is hopeful of reaching a resolution with Moses in the coming weeks.
Benji falls on Kiwi sword
It’s been seven years since Benji Marshall donned a Kiwi jumper. But despite being well in the frame to make a return to the international arena in the mid-season Test against Tonga on June 22, Marshall believes he shouldn’t be picked.
With his Wests Tigers coach, Michael Maguire, now in charge of the Kiwis, Marshall is a strong contender to play in the halves for New Zealand in the Test in Auckland.
But the man himself has advised Maguire not to pick him in the Test, regardless of how strong his desire is to represent his country one last time.
"I haven’t really talked about it with Madge, but from my point of view we have a World Cup coming up that we need to build our combinations for the Kiwis," Marshall said.
"I don’t even know if I’m playing next year. So from my point of view I’d never say no to a Kiwi jumper – there’s no doubt. But at the same time the Kiwis have five Tests this year and it’s probably a good opportunity to think about who is going to be wearing those jerseys in the World Cup.
"If I was coach that’s what I would be doing.
"I’m just in a different head space. I’m pretty content playing at the Tigers and enjoying my role here. I still don’t think I’m going to get picked though. I’m not expecting it.
"We’ve got guys like Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson, Dylan Brown, Kodi Nikorima … and I don’t know If I’m even playing next year."
Panthers keen for DWZ to stay
The Panthers had a recruitment and retention committee meeting on Wednesday, with the club deciding against reacting to the Eels’ discussions with Watene-Zelezniak’s manager.
Watene-Zelezniak has told coach Ivan Cleary his desire is to remain at the Panthers despite NRL.com reporting last week that the Parramatta Eels were keen to lure him to their club before June 30.
As it stands, Watene-Zelezniak’s manager hasn’t sought permission from the Panthers to accept an offer from the Eels.
Parramatta want Watene-Zelezniak as a right centre, but it’s understood the Kiwi skipper is reluctant to leave given his desire to wear the No.1 jersey.
Players' Poll is back
The NRL.com Players' Poll is back for 2019.
The poll was one of the most read stories on NRL.com last season.
Players from all 16 NRL clubs were sent the anonymous survey this week. They’ll be answering questions from, who they think is the best player in the NRL, to whether they believe the NRL should introduce a player transfer window.
NRL.com will release the results next week.
Sharks nervous about Shaun return
Shaun Johnson’s hamstring injury isn’t as simple as it seems. It turns out Johnson’s injury is a result of nerve damage in his lower back.
It’s understood it was also a factor in the quadriceps injury that scratched him from the match against the Eels in round four.
The Sharks aren’t taking any risks with Johnson, especially given how well the team is performing without some of its biggest stars.
Thompson set to sign new deal
The Wests Tigers are edging closer to finalising a contract extension for fan favourite Corey Thompson. He has been one of the Tigers’ most consistent performers since returning to the NRL last season.
Unfortunately, prop Russell Packer’s future is under a cloud. NRL.com understands Packer, who has been dropped to the Canterbury Cup, is being shopped to rival clubs.
Tiger Air of awkwardness
Speaking of the Tigers. There were a few wry smiles last Saturday afternoon when the Panthers arrived at Brisbane airport to board the same flight back to Sydney.
The night before the Tigers humiliated the Panthers at Suncorp Stadium, getting one up against former coach Ivan Cleary.
You could imagine the awkwardness, but it was helped by the fact the Tigers were all allocated seats in the front of the plane and the Panthers down the back.
Phillips out of Blues fold
Former referee and NRL player Luke Phillips won’t be back as part of Brad Fittler’s NSW Blues coaching staff this year.
Phillips was brought into the coaching staff last year to assist with referee interpretation and discipline, however the former fullback has decided to pull the pin on the job to focus on his own business venture. He remains part of Garth Brennan’s coaching staff at the Gold Coast Titans.
Brisbane rake in offers
James Segeyaro's rapid fire move to the Broncos was agreed upon last Friday, with the ex-Panthers, Cowboys and Sharks hooker arriving in Brisbane on Sunday and his contract lodged first thing on Monday.
Segeyaro wasn't the only option as a temporary replacement for injured No.9 Andrew McCullough though.
NRL.com understands that representatives of Newcastle rake Danny Levi – who has been given permission to explore his options, and the agents for Warriors pair Karl Lawton and Sam Cook, were among those on the phone to Brisbane as soon as McCullough went down at training.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.