Clint Gutherson of the Eels is tackled by David Klemmer (left) and Tim Browne of the Bulldogs.
Clint Gutherson of the Eels is tackled by David Klemmer (left) and Tim Browne of the Bulldogs. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Sterling not sold on Eels' new five-eighth

BRAD Arthur has excess cash burning a hole in his pocket, but Clint Gutherson has his full support as the five-eighth to end Parramatta's finals exile.

Peter Sterling on the other hand is giving Gutherson 13 weeks to prove it, or Arthur should crack open his war chest to go halfback hunting once again.

The greatest No.7 in the Eels' history remains unconvinced on Gutherson's credentials as a permanent playmaker, admitting he was "disappointed when Ben Hunt signed with the Dragons".

Out of a scandalous 2016 Parramatta lost marquee half Keiran Foran but somehow wound up with enough salary cap space to chase a top-notch replacement.

Gutherson showed enough as a makeshift No.6 late last year for Arthur to back him as Corey Norman's scrumbase sidekick to start 2017.

Sterling sees the same potential, but is wary of the Eels missing out both on the park and in the market place, with a top eight finish this year "the minimum they can achieve".

Hence his deadline for Parramatta's latest playmaking combo.

"It depends on results to some degree, but I'd like to think there would be a bit of latitude in terms of working out that combination, how they're going to play and respond in different situations," Sterling told

"I would think after half a season Brad will know whether that combination is going to work or not, and a call will have to be made for the long term ... With a few marquee halfbacks coming off-contract at the end of this season, I do think (going to market) is the best option.

"Clint Gutherson, I don't know that he's a natural playmaker. He did a great job in different positions last year and he did play well in the halves late in the season.

"That combination could work because Corey Norman will be the main playmaker and we've seen what he can do.

"He's turned into a leader there, especially when they've got the football. That will make it easier for Gutherson to find his way.

"But it'll be much tougher going in as the starting five-eighth and they are untried and under pressure ... There are some reasons to give optimism, but there's still question marks there."

If there's another half with those answers, Parramatta won't have to look too hard to find them.

Mitch Moses, Mitchell Pearce, Luke Brooks, Josh Reynolds, Anthony Milford, Shaun Johnson, John Sutton, Chad Townsend, Tyrone Roberts and Gareth Widdop are just some of the biggest playmaking names currently on the market.

Despite a 2016 season plagued by off-field incidents, Parramatta rewarded Norman's own brilliant form and locked him in for the long term with a $2.1 million, three-year deal.

But Sterling is still miffed as to how the Eels missed out on the first high-profile half signing this year.

Hunt's move to the Dragons on a five-year, $6 million deal with an option for an additional year came after he was first linked to the blue and gold jumper Sterling made his own.

How serious that interest was depends on who you talk to. Eels insiders still insist the speculation was fuelled by Hunt's camp in Queensland, based on father Geoff's connection to the club he played for briefly in the late '70s.

Either way it's a shame for Sterling, who sees the Broncos No.7 as the exact type of player Norman would thrive beside.

"I was disappointed when Ben Hunt signed with the Dragons," Sterling said.

"I kind of always had him pencilled in, in the back of my mind, to play there. He'd played alongside Corey at Brisbane and I have no doubt at all his best football is still way in front of him, so he would've been a very viable option.

"I don't know if we were blindsided by the Dragons or what happened, because there is a war chest there.

"I think (Norman) needs a partner in crime. Whether Clint Gutherson develops into that person, I'm not so sure about.

"I probably don't see Corey as the kind of player that doesn't need somebody else there to call some of the play.

"I think he needs a Ben Hunt style of player. Someone who's very solid, has a good running game and (can) kick the football.

"You don't go out and buy just any player, it's got to be the right player for Norman if it proves that we do need someone else coming to the club."

News Corp Australia

WATCH: Maranoa residents sight strange object through the sky

Premium Content WATCH: Maranoa residents sight strange object through the...

Southwest Queensland residents have sighted the odd bright object travelling across...

Humungous grants for Darling Downs and southwest community groups

Premium Content Humungous grants for Darling Downs and southwest community...

Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on community groups and councils...

Identities of men who allegedly held up Maranoa servo revealed

Premium Content Identities of men who allegedly held up Maranoa servo...

The two men who have been charged with allegedly robbing a Warrego Highway servo...