Nathan Peats has revealed he fell on his sword to save Parramatta playmaker Corey Norman and allow the club to play for NRL premiership points.
The NRL on Thursday informed the embattled club they were under the salary cap after the mid-season departure of hooker Peats to Gold Coast on an 18-month deal.
The 25-year-old, earmarked as a future NSW State of Origin representative, admitted he was disappointed at being pushed out in a hasty attempt by the club to clear $570,000 from their books.
Along with the medically enforced retirement of Anthony Watmough, and Ryan Morgan’s move to Melbourne, Peats’ exit will ensure the club are playing for points against South Sydney on Friday night at a sold-out Pirtek Stadium.
After Watmough and Morgan were wiped from their books, the Eels were told they still had to clear more room to be cap compliant and had to let go of one of their marquee players.
Only the exit of Peats or Norman would get them under the cap, and Peats said it was a clear choice for him to leave.
“There were two to fit the criteria to get them under the cap, so they could play for points – myself and Corey Norman,” Peats told the Nine Network.
“You’re not going to get rid of Corey Norman because he’s one of the best five-eighths in the comp at the moment. So I fit the bill – it’s a business.”
Peats delivered a parting shot to Eels management, saying the club had been poorly run and he feared the mistakes of the past were set to be repeated unless there was a front-office cleanout.
Peats said he was reluctant to move on, but took the fall for the good of the club.
“It is (disappointing). You don’t want to leave a club that you want to stay at. But at the end of the day, I’m looking forward to a fresh change,” Peats said.
“As long as my family and that are looked after, I’m sure I’ll have a good time on the Gold Coast.”
The Eels were able to satisfy NRL salary cap auditor Jamie L’Oste Brown that they were under the cap but were yet to name the replacements to come into their top 25 in place of their departed players.
As part of their punishment for systematic salary-cap cheating, the NRL proposed to strip the club of the 12 points they had accumulated this season.
The points will remain on the competition ladder until the club responds to its breach notice, with the Eels on Thursday granted more time to reply.
It is expected the Eels will learn the full results of the NRL salary cap investigation by mid-June.
Coach Brad Arthur has the difficult task of closing up any rifts between the playing group and management, admitting to feeling “devastated” in asking Peats to leave the club.
“He broke his neck playing for this club and played another 60 minutes with it,” Arthur said.
Eels board member Geoff Gerard thanked the work of club consultant and former NRL salary cap auditor Ian Schubert to get the club’s books in order and fans for their unwavering support.