Eels to start talks with Matterson on deal

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Parramatta will meet with Ryan Matterson's management in the next fortnight as the Eels begin their fight to retain the off-contract back-rower.

Matterson shapes as one of the last major pieces of retention for Parramatta, who have endured the most difficult six months of roster negotiations of any team.

The 27-year-old is so far yet to enter full negotiations, but is now finding his best football playing lock off the bench while back at full fitness.

AAP has been told up to five other clubs have expressed interest, with Matterson looming as one of the few big-name back-rowers left on the market.

One of those clubs would likely be the Dolphins, who have signed Felise Kaufusi and Kenny Bromwich as second-rowers but still lack a genuine No.13.

Matterson himself has stayed out of background talks, having told his management he does not want to become involved or even aware of negotiations until the latter stages.

But that time will soon come, with Matterson's agent to meet with the Eels before serious negotiations begin with either them or rivals.

"We're going to have a chat with his manager in the coming week or so," Parramatta's head of football Mark O'Neill said.

"We wanted to give him a bit of time to focus on his footy. He is playing good footy, has a clear mind and is going really well."

Matterson's negotiations come after fellow forwards Marata Niukore, Isaiah Papali'i, Ray Stone and Oregon Kaufusi all signed elsewhere for next season.

Hooker Reed Mahoney is also bound for Canterbury, while Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo are among those to have re-signed.

Parramatta opted against pursuing Jack Bird as a back-rower before he re-signed with St George Illawarra this week, keeping faith in the club's rising young forward stocks.

But the back-row market is also slimming for the Dolphins and other rivals, with Angus Crichton, Adam Elliott, Wade Graham, Briton Nikora and Matterson the last remaining big names.

Meanwhile Matterson's move to the middle is paying dividends.

The Eels junior grew up as a five-eighth, and is able to see his role in the middle as similar to that.

"I'm more involved," he said.

"I get my hands on the ball a lot more and I get to choose whether to run or pass.

"Back row at the moment people are running lines and you're a bit more of a crash player. But I enjoy being a ball-player."

His shift from edge to middle came after raising the topic with coach Brad Arthur early in the pre-season, with Matterson having toyed with the idea for the past two years after being signed as an edge.

"Brad said 'I am glad you said that, because I was thinking the same thing'," Matterson said.

"I had a bit of a taste of it at the Roosters and Tigers, and it was something I really thrived on."

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