Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has admitted the club’s salary cap woes forced him to omit in-form halfback Luke Kelly for Friday night’s NRL clash with Penrith.
Chris Sandow was reinstated at halfback, spelling trouble for the contract hopes of Kelly, who Arthur said on Thursday had been one of the Eels’ best since being called up from reserve grade for their past two games.
Arthur also declared that the Eels’ hopes of signing Cronulla fullback Michael Gordon mid-season were “dead and buried”, and that all negotiations with the club’s off-contract players have been put on hold until the last-placed side starts winning.
“We’ve picked our team to be salary cap-compliant,” Arthur said.
“I don’t know if Luke Kelly’s done enough not to be in our team.
“The last two weeks, out of our six tries we’ve scored, he set up five of them.
“He’s made a total of nearly 60 tackles and missed two.
“So he’s done pretty well. He stuck to our kicking plan.
“It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is.”
The club was last week fined over half a million dollars – the third biggest in NRL history – for salary cap breaches relating to 2014.
They will also be docked four competition points at the beginning of next season unless they implement changes to the club’s organisational capability recommended following a pending independent review.
And while the Eels are compliant for this season, they have already reached the limit on their second tier salary cap, meaning the 24-year-old Kelly can only rely on injuries to play another NRL game this year.
“It just depends on what positions we’re trying to cover,” Arthur said.
“At the moment we’ve got 11 blokes unavailable. It’s not too hard to get an exemption.
“Luke’s a strong kid. He’s aware of the situation.
“He’s going to try very hard not to let that affect him.
“When he gets another opportunity, I’m sure he’ll be ready for it.”
NSW Origin winger Will Hopoate is also expected to back up for the game in Penrith.