Deadline: Eels have one week to re-sign star
Parramatta have one week to get cracking and put a respectable offer to inspirational skipper Clint Gutherson before his management throws open the door to rival clubs.
Ahead of Friday night's crucial clash against the Sydney Roosters, Gutherson's agent Sam Ayoub opened up to The Daily Telegraph about the delicate point negotiations are now at, after a previous low-ball offer was rejected some months back.
Ayoub was adamant Gutherson's first choice would be to stay but added the 24-year-old captain "will not be selling himself short".
That comes after Gutherson took considerably less for his previous contract than he could have received at rival clubs.
Ayoub is due to meet with Parramatta's general manager of football Mark O'Neill next week and Ayoub confirmed three rival clubs had already expressed an interest to talk, but at this point the ball was in Parra's court.
Ayoub said Gutherson also wants clarity on where the Eels stand in relation to Brad Arthur's future, given Gutherson's close relationship with the off-contract coach.
"Right now his preference is to remain at Parramatta," Ayoub told The Daily Telegraph.
"But that will be subject to what is going on at the club and who else is going to be there.
"He won't be selling himself short this time.
"The club is fully aware of the circumstances that worked to their benefit to remain at the club for less than he was worth last time.
"I have had a number of discussions with Mark (O'Neill), the most recent probably three or four weeks ago, where I indicated that he has got my word that I will not open negotiations with anybody from any other club until at least round four or five.
"I have kept my word because I have had three clubs in particular who have asked me if we would be interested in meeting up for a chat.
"I have said to them let's give it until round four or five before we sit down and have a chat."
Arthur has not been involved in Gutherson's negotiations with O'Neill now in charge of player contract negotiations.
O'Neill did not want to make any public comment when contacted on Thursday but it is understood the Eels are determined not to lose their skipper, and are confident they can keep him.
Parramatta chief executive Bernie Gurr has already stated that the club would hold off talks with Arthur until mid-season.
Ayoub added: "Gutho has made it public he would like to know what is happening with Brad before he goes forward.
"That is not at all suggesting that his decision is going to be based solely around Brad.
"But it does suggest he has a high respect for the coach and as a player he enjoys being coached by him."
Gutherson has had an outstanding start to the season and won the three Dally M votes for his effort in last week's win over Canterbury.
He is also approaching the prime years of his career and is highly valued not only because of his ability to play any backline position but how he inspires teammates on and off the field.
Despite his relative young age, Gutherson was the player Arthur called on to take over as the team leader last year when the side was lacking discipline.
Gutherson is known as the Eels' king of endurance and wins just about everything at training, while on the field his competitive spirit lifts teammates like it did at vital times against the Bulldogs.
Ayoub also managed Johnathan Thurston throughout his illustrious career and he said Gutherson possessed similar leadership qualities.
"Knowing both players I think next to Johnathan Thurston that Gutho is one of the most competitive players that I have come across," Ayoub said.
"I have never used that analogy to any other player prior to this.
"But he genuinely does."