Parramatta legend Luke Burt is confident the club can find a replacement for failed signing Kieran Foran as soon as next NRL season.
The Eels last week granted Foran a release from the final three years of his contract after the New Zealand international quit the game to focus on addressing personal issues.
Foran was trumpeted as the man to lead the Eels to the finals for the first time in six years after signing a lucrative deal almost worth a reported $5 million last year.
And after leading the side to a 5-2 record to start the season, the Eels were on their way.
That was when Foran’s off-field struggles became public, and he played just two more games in the blue and gold before he decided to leave the NRL.
And while the club will rue the departure of one of the competition’s best players, Foran’s exit means there should now be at least $1 million worth of space in their salary cap for 2017.
The club has also yet to commit big money to off-contract five-eighth Corey Norman.
Burt, who holds the record for most tries in the club’s history, said the club’s success on the field in 2016 was reason for optimism next season.
“Obviously he’s a quality player. There’s no doubt about that,” Burt told AAP.
“But the players that have stepped up this year through injury or whatever, they’ve stepped in and done a really good job for us. Why can’t someone do it again next year?”
Former captain Nathan Cayless also pointed out how the Eels, with 10 wins from their 19 games this season, would be in the top eight if it wasn’t for salary cap breaches.
Cayless is confident the club could repeat their form and break their finals drought next year.
“If you look at how many wins and losses the boys are sitting on at the moment, they’ve got themselves within the eight,” he said.
“There’s certainly a real good core of players, and a good core of senior players, who’ll definitely expect to play finals next year.”
While marquee talent is thin at this time of the year, Burt said off-contract code-hopper Jarryd Hayne would be at the top of list of every club in the competition.
“There is space for him and if he can fit in there, then 100 per cent you’d throw him in there because we all know how good a player Jarryd is and how good he was for this club. For him to come back it’d be a great acquisition,” he said.
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