After successfully returning from a brief lay-off, Ryan Matterson will resume contract talks as coach Brad Arthur insists $2 million of negotiations with the Eels' brightest stars won't derail a strong start to 2021.
Matterson will come back into the Eels' 17 against the Bulldogs on Saturday after completing a full 80-minute NSW Cup hit-out over the weekend, his first game in a month after suffering a head knock in round two.
His management and the club agreed to park discussions around his future while the 26-year-old was out injured, with Matterson having up until round 13 to take up a 2022 option in his favour.
Just days before copping the elbow from Melbourne's Felise Kaufusi that had sidelined him until now, Matterson made back-page headlines when it emerged his agent had emailed rival NRL clubs requesting expressions of interest in him for 2022.
NRL.com understands his priority remains to stay at Parramatta, as is the case with teammates Mitchell Moses and Nathan Brown, though Matterson will take his time given a call on his contract option isn't required until June.
League leaders: The Lyon inside Gutho
Moses has just two weeks left on his own 2022 option deadline.
It's understood he and Brown have had potential extensions through until at least 2023 flagged by the Eels.
The NSW Origin forward is also expected to return to the negotiation table after Parramatta's initial two-year deal – believed to be worth around $600,000 annually – was withdrawn by the club.
Robinson calls for sin-bin increase to punish foul play
Brown fielded interest from Manly during that time but is no longer on the Sea Eagles' radar.
Speaking either side of a thumping win over Brisbane that lifts Parramatta to second on the ladder, he and Moses reiterated their desire to stay in blue and gold.
Arthur confirmed the feeling was mutual as the Eels juggle a roster featuring several stars entering their prime footballing years, in turn looming as attractive targets for rival clubs.
"The players know the club wants to keep them, and they know it takes a bit of time," Arthur told NRL.com.
"The better you play the tougher that can be because of the nature of the salary cap, that's the cycle of footy.
"Matto's got an option his way, the club wants him to stay and I don't think there's any dramas there.
"The thing is we've created an environment where they want to play. It's a business obviously for both players and the club and everyone gets that and understands that.
"But our players are comfortable and enjoy coming to work, they enjoy winning footy games and playing together, so they get how to handle these things.
"It's a matter of working things out, it takes a bit of time with the nature of your salary cap."
Defy Impossible: Moses karate kicks it for Gutherson
While Moses looms as arguably the most enticing playmaking option in a flush market with a price tag of around $800,000 for his services, Brown echoed his halfback's hopes of staying with the Eels.
"These things happen in your career, and you’ve just got to take it on board," Brown said after putting Brisbane to the sword.
"It’s part of the game now everyone gets off contract.
"The only way through these situations is don’t read anything or don’t act on anything just go out there and control what you can control.
"I would love to stay at Parra."
As for Matterson, his successful return to the paddock will off-set the likely absence of utility Will Smith against Canterbury due to a suspected broken thumb.
The magic of Brisbane
Smith is awaiting scan results on the injury suffered against Brisbane, and is facing a few weeks out if a break is confirmed.
Isaiah Papali'i's outstanding form as Matterson's replacement had raised a selection conundrum of sorts for Arthur, who caught a red-eye flight back from Darwin to watch his second-rower's NSW Cup return on Saturday.
"Matto got through 80 minutes, we were only going to play him 60 but he punched out the full game pretty well," Arthur said.
"I've got a few decisions to make there, it's a good spot to be in.
"He'll be in there somewhere but I'm not sure how we'll work out the 17 yet."
NRL Magic Round Brisbane 1-Day & 3-Day Passes are now on sale with eight massive games across round 10 at Suncorp Stadium this May. With the league's best players all heading to Brisbane, you'd hate to miss it! Tickets at NRL.com/Tickets.