The Eels are poised to stave off further poaching raids for teen prodigy Dylan Brown as the NRL confirmed it will probe New Zealand Warriors over an attempt to lure the youngster across the Tasman.
The Herald understands the Eels are advanced in talks to upgrade and extend 18-year-old Brown's contract with the blue and golds, which expires at the end of 2020.
Extended stay: Dylan Brown.Credit:NRL Photos
The Warriors tabled a lucrative offer to Brown to fill the void left by Shaun Johnson's exit, a move which could have breached the NRL's anti-tampering guidelines given he still has two years to run on his meagre deal with Parramatta.
The Warriors insist they were initially told by Brown's management he was a free agent at the end of 2019 and backed down in their pursuit when his contract status was later clarified. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on behalf of Brown or his management.
But it won't stop the NRL asking questions of the Warriors and their controversial talent scout Peter O'Sullivan over the initial Brown offer, which was worth more than $3 million and was the richest tabled for a player yet to feature in the top grade.
"The NRL is making enquiries with the relevant parties," an NRL spokesman said on Monday.
O'Sullivan, the man credited with unearthing Greg Inglis, Israel Folau and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, was deregistered by the NRL in 2016.
He was employed by the Sydney Roosters at the time, but was found to have breached the league's betting rules following his dealings with controversial punter Eddie Hayson.
The Warriors signed him mid-way through last season as the NRL approved his return to the game.
The Eels declined to comment until the NRL finishes its questioning.
But they are hoping the Warriors won't have a chance to nab one of the code's most promising players with plans already afoot to make Brown a mainstay in their halves.
It's understood the club is crafting a multi-year extension for the Auckland-born youngster. And it was only in November the Eels issued a statement confirming Brown was under contract to the club for another two seasons despite speculation to the contrary.
Brown is only signed to the Eels on a development player deal worth about $60,000 a season, but the Eels are preparing to parachute him into the club's top 30 as they prepare to turn around their fortunes after a wretched season in 2018.
So highly thought of is Brown amongst some of the game's best talent spotters, the Warriors were prepared to shell out a fortune to land his signature and whisk him straight into their top squad.
Stephen Kearney's side is desperate to add a No.7 they can build a club around after releasing Johnson to join the Sharks when relations between the player and club soured.
Partner in crime: Mitchell Moses.Credit:AAP
Brown is set to combine with Eels halfback Mitchell Moses for the wooden spooners' opening clash of the season against Penrith, the first since Corey Norman's release to St George Illawarra.
The Eels had been trying to offload Norman for much of last year before the Dragons showed interest as they prepare for life after Gareth Widdop.
And Brown showed there will be life after Norman with a composed display in Parramatta's last-gasp loss to the Raiders in a trial at St Mary's last Friday night.
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