Eels try to slip under the guard of SBW suitors

ADRIAN PROSZENKO
Last updated 09:04 13/05/2012

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The quest for the most sought-after signature in rugby and league continues with the Steve Kearney-coached Parramatta club the latest suitors chasing Sonny Bill Williams.

Williams has been strongly linked to the Sydney Roosters should he make a comeback to rugby league. But the New Zealand Rugby Union remains in contention for his signature for 2013 while Japan rugby has also weighed in with a stunning $1.8 million per season two-year deal.

Now the Eels are preparing a late and lucrative offer in the hope of getting under the guard of the Roosters and rugby's suitors. In a further hint that a deal with the Roosters isn't yet done, the Sydney club has recently re-signed Kiwi enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and fellow forwards Aidan Guerra and Tinirau Arona.

Williams' manager, Khoder Nasser, has assured Eels officials that no deal has been struck elsewhere.

Parramatta powerbrokers initially baulked at Williams' exorbitant asking price, believed to be around the $NZ1.3m a season mark, when they first made inquiries about his services.

However, they believe the money they'd put aside to recruit Manly and Australian forward Tony Williams could be better spent on his code-crossing namesake. The Eels have money to spend, with Luke Burt expected to follow Nathan Hindmarsh into retirement. Other off-contract players, including Justin Poore, Ben Smith and Shane Shackleton are expected to be moved on.

Kearney, also the Kiwi coach, has a good relationship with Sonny Bill Williams and the pair have kept in contact regarding an NRL return.

While the former Bulldog would provide the strike power the side has been missing, the Eels believe his signature would also be a marketing coup.

Officials believe that memberships and crowd figures would rise as fans flock to witness his return to league.

One of the potential sticking points is that Nasser is not currently an accredited NRL agent and the next manager intake won't happen until later in the year.

And in another stunning development at the embattled Parramatta club, Eels legend Ray Price has emerged as a key player in the decision not to appoint Jason Taylor in a coaching capacity.

Taylor was set to join the club to assist Kearney but the deal was aborted at the last minute after Price rang several directors last weekend. Kearney has said from the outset he wanted autonomy over football operations and Price suggested that officials shouldn't impose assistance Kearney didn't want. SYDNEY SUN-HERALD

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- Sun-Herald

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