Parramatta great Peter Sterling fears NRL superstar Semi Radradra could slip through the club’s net amid the leadership vacuum in the wake of the salary cap scandal.
The club has angrily denied claims Radradra is seeking an immediate release from his contract and a move to French rugby union.
In the latest of a long line of controversies to plague the Eels this season, the Australian Test winger on Saturday flew to his native Fiji amid conflicting reports about his future.
The club will this week have their penalties finalised over the salary cap scandal with the so-called “Gang of Five” set to be deregistered.
Sterling said he couldn’t fathom the Eels giving their blessing to Radradra, who is contracted until 2017, leaving early.
However he said the exit of the five officials at the centre of the salary cap affair, including chairman Steve Sharp and chief executive John Boulous, could impact their ability to hang onto the two-time Dally M winger of the year.
“Exacerbating the potential problem is who’s making the decisions at Parramatta now? That’s the thing, they’re not decisions that can be rushed into when you’re looking at putting in new board members and CEOs and things like that,” Sterling said on the Sunday Footy Show.
“That’s a crucial step for Parramatta to go forward – who goes in there. How they deal with these sort of issues when you don’t have the decision makers in there.”
It was reported Radradra had told the club he did not intend to return however it is understood the Eels planned and paid for the flights.
In a statement, the Eels said they expected Radradra to be back in Sydney after next weekend’s bye and ready to train in preparation for their next game against Cronulla on July 2.
Sterling said retaining Radradra, last year’s top try-scorer, was key to their future, branding him the face of the club.
“The one thing that I am hearing is that off-field some things have changed, he’s lost some discipline away from the training paddock. And how that’s playing with his head, I don’t know,” Sterling said.
“He is contracted to the end of 2017 and there’s no way Parramatta would allow him to walk out of that contract.
“I know that you don’t want a player who doesn’t want to be at that club but he’s so important for the club after what they’ve been through and what they continue to go through.”