Parramatta have announced the immediate release of Junior Paulo, freeing him to join Canberra on their push for a spot in the NRL finals.
Paulo’s exit is just the latest blow in a season from hell for the under-siege Eels, who coach Brad Arthur admits have now hit rock bottom.
“The … Parramatta Eels have today agreed to release Junior Paulo from the remainder of his 2016 contract to take up an opportunity at another NRL club, effective immediately,” an Eels statement read.
“The Eels thank Junior for his 53 games in blue and gold and wish him all the best for his future.”
The loss of Paulo comes just a fortnight after Nathan Peats was forced out due to the Eels’ salary cap breach, while star halves Corey Norman and Kieran Foran have also been rocked by separate off-field dramas.
Norman is facing charges of possession of a prohibited drug and a prescribed restricted substance, while captain Foran is also undergoing rehabilitation for personal issues.
A rock for his players throughout the troubled season, Arthur finally conceded his team was feeling the effects of a seemingly never-ending series of setbacks.
The Eels have yet to win a game since being stripped of 12 competition points three weeks ago.
“It’s easy to keep saying that we’ll just put it aside and brush it off, but maybe over the last couple of weeks, we haven’t been at our best football and it has taken its toll a little bit,” Arthur said.
“We’re all humans. They’re not robots. They’ve been very strong to put it aside. I can’t say for sure but maybe for the past fortnight they’ve been putting on a brave face.
“They’ve still been playing with plenty of effort. Maybe their heads haven’t been in the game for the full 80 minutes … There’s a sense of relief from the boys that it can’t get much worse.
“We’ve hit rock bottom. The only way for us now is forwards.”
Arthur also explained that a shoulder injury to Foran kept him from going back to rehab in Brisbane, as had been previously planned after last week’s loss to Melbourne.
Arthur said Foran had still kept in touch with his doctors.
“He’s consulted with his doctor up there and he’s done a couple of Skype sessions,” he said.
“He was only going back for an overnight trip anyway, so he still got what he needed to get out of it.
“He just needed to get some treatment. He’ll probably go back up for a couple of days next week.”
Norman is a certain starter against the Knights despite the charges he is facing.
“He put himself in a silly situation. But we’ve got to give him a chance to prove his innocence,” Arthur said.