Parramatta Eels still hopeful of signing Folau

BRAD WALTER
Last updated 10:01 30/11/2012

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Parramatta members have been told the club is hopeful of finalising a deal with Israel Folau soon, and were still looking to sign English forward Gareth Hock in 2014 along with a leading front-rower, believed to be North Queensland's James Tamou.

Eels coach Ricky Stuart, recruitment manager Peter Nolan and chief executive Ken Edwards addressed a gathering of about 250 members on Thursday night after an open training session at Parramatta Stadium and outlined their plans for the future.

Of immediate interest was the saga over Folau's signing, which has now dragged on for a month since he requested a release from the AFL to return to the NRL but is yet to be resolved due to salary-cap issues.

The Eels had also been close to a deal with Hock and members were advised he may join the club in 2014, but would be staying put with Wigan next season. Also on Parramatta's radar for 2014 is a big-name prop and Tamou has been linked with a move from the Cowboys due to his links with Stuart, who gave him his Origin debut this season.

However, Stuart and Nolan said they would focus heavily on Eels juniors, and have recently promoted four members of this year's under-20s team - centre Vai Toutai, back-rower Matt Eisenhuth, winger Semi Radradra and halfback Jason Seage - into the top squad.

Parramatta have also signed Darcy Lussick and Daniel Harrison from Manly, Newcastle's under-20s captain Api Pewhairangi, Storm centre Brayden Williame and Queensland Cup forwards Lorenzo Ma'afu and Ken Edwards.

The members also heard of plans to upgrade Parramatta Stadium and develop a five-year strategic plan for the club. Eels officials have set a target of 20,000 members and the club this week appointed a membership and fan engagement manager.

Officials declined to comment on a letter by ParraFirst candidate Phil Sim, who is contesting the upcoming football club elections, to the NRL about Folau's situation but it is understood it received a mixed reaction from members at the forum.

Sim, who posted the letter on the 1Eyed Eel website he runs, wrote to NRL interim chief executive Shane Mattiske asking how salary cap auditor Ian Schubert could set a value on Folau, reported to be $400,000.

Describing Folau as a ''significant risk'' for the Eels after two years playing AFL, Sim said the former Origin and test star should go into the salary cap for the amount he and the club agree on.

''As a supporter, we're confused by the news that the NRL is now able to arbitrarily set a valuation on a player,'' Sim wrote.

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''If there is a salary cap clause which allows the NRL to be judge and jury over what a player's value is, I can only assume that there is some kind of table or guidelines as to how a player is valued.

''If so, I'm sure all rugby league fans would appreciate that you make that public and transparent, and it also be included on your website.''

Sim said Mark Gasnier and Darren Lockyer previously had contracts registered at below their market value.

Meanwhile, Penrith have released five-eighth Harry Seijka to the Warriors. He will reunite with former Panthers coach Matt Elliott.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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