Contract chaos: Matterson’s itchy feet has Eels squirming
Parramatta are facing another contract fight as they prepare for their blockbuster against Melbourne on Thursday night after it emerged representatives of Ryan Matterson had contacted rival clubs asking for expressions of interest in the boom backrower.
Matterson has an option in his contract for next year and The Australian has been told by several clubs that his manager circulated an email last week asking interested clubs to come forward.
Matterson is only in his second year at the Eels, having departed the Wests Tigers in acrimonious circumstances at the end of the 2019 season. He is one of several big-name players at the Eels who are off contract at the end of the season, the group headlined by halfback Mitchell Moses and NSW backrower Nathan Brown.
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Like Matterson, Moses has an option in his contract for next season with the Eels and has been offered an additional year by the club as they attempt to convince him to stay. Brown has been linked with Manly, although he has also been offered an extension by the Eels.
Aside from Moses, Brown and Matterson, Maika Sivo and Blake Ferguson remain off contract and open to offers from rivals. Sivo, who shares the same management company as Matterson, has been actively offered to rivals, but it appears there have been few takers given the salary demands.
Ferguson wants to show Parramatta that he deserves another deal and he made a solid start in the win over Brisbane, scoring one try, running for more than 150m and busting seven tackles.
Matterson is only 26 but already at his third club, having started his first-grade career at the Sydney Roosters before shifting to Wests Tigers and then Parramatta.
His departure from the Tigers was one of the stories of the 2019 season, Matterson effectively forcing his way out for reasons that he never fully explained. At the start of last season he spoke about the change of clubs and insisted he wanted to stay at Parramatta for the long-term.
His management would appear to be on a different page. Matterson has been earmarked as a future NSW representative and Parramatta would be loath to lose him given the uncertainty that surrounds a number of their high-profile players.
The negotiations with nearly half their starting side have cast a shadow over the club's start to the year and prompted some to suggest things could go pear-shaped if the Eels hit a rocky patch.
Backrower Keegan Hipgrave is another player with an uncertain future - the Eels have an option in their favour for next season with the former Titans backrower. He made an impact off the interchange bench in his first game for the Eels against Brisbane last weekend and is relishing his move to Sydney.
"I feel like if I want to play my best footy I have to be at a successful club like Parramatta," Hipgrave said.
"Parramatta were a top-three team last year and I think they are going to have a good shot at winning a premiership this year.
"No way am I having a dig at the Titans - it is about focusing and getting out of my comfort zone."
Hipgrave was convinced to move to Parramatta after talks with coach Brad Arthur. While he has settled in Sydney's northwest, he has been getting his fix of surfing at least once a week by travelling to the eastern suburbs.
"I had a really good conversation with Brad towards the end of last season and everything he said to me was on line with what I wanted to do," Hipgrave said.
"He is a really tough and honest coach and I think that will get the best out of me."
Originally published as Contract chaos: Matterson's itchy feet has Eels squirming