Peter Sterling, the Parramatta legend, said he would be shocked if the Eels did not have a coach ready to be hired immediately as the replacement for Stephen Kearney.
Kearney will announce today his tenure at the club is over, with his assistants Brad Arthur and Chris Anderson to take the job for the rest of the season. Beyond that, it is unclear who will attempt to turn around the Eels' fortunes.
NSW coach Ricky Stuart has long been linked with the Eels, as he has with Canberra. While Stuart's manager John Fordham denied last night a deal with any club had been done with his client, Sterling said the timing suggested the club had a coach lined up.
''I wouldn't understand the timing of it if that wasn't in place,'' Sterling said. ''Any time you make a change, you do so on the basis that you've got something in place. Maybe that's not the case, but I'd like to think that at this stage, the decision has been made, and that's behind it all. It's unusual timing, not that there's a good time.''
Sterling also said if Parramatta officials had someone in mind, they should consider bringing them in immediately, to finish the season. ''If somebody's in the frame, that could be advantageous, because they would come in without any great pressure - the next seven games, well they're not as big as what they're going to be from game one next year,'' he said. ''It might be a good opportunity to ... get a good feel of the place.''
Jason Taylor, who took over from Brian Smith at Parramatta briefly before switching to South Sydney, has also been linked to the job. Arthur, who like Kearney served under Craig Bellamy at Melbourne, has the respect of the players and will be another option. Former Eels hooker Steve Edge, though, backed Stuart, telling AAP: ''Ricky Stuart would do a great job. There is absolutely no doubt about that.''
Contacted last night, Stuart, who has previously ruled out coaching both NRL and Origin next year, said: ''The only comment I've got to make is that I've got no comment.''
Fordham added: ''There are various options out there, but he's made no call at this stage. I say quite emphatically that Ricky Stuart is not contracted to any organisation. He's a professional rugby league coach, and he wants to keep coaching, but there's been no deals with anyone.''
Eels players were last night shocked by news of their coach's departure. Star fullback Jarryd Hayne said simply ''Wow'' on Twitter, while young five-eighth Joseph Paulo also used the social networking site to express his surprise.
Club legend Ray Price, who was drafted in to act as a mentor for young players in recent weeks, similarly reacted with surprise. ''What?'' Price said when the Herald told him what had happened. ''You're joking ... well he's got my support.''
Price said he wanted to call board members for clarification. But Kearney had clearly lost their support.