Keating in the mix to fill Peats' shoes

Down and out: Nathan Peats. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Down and out: Nathan Peats. Photo: Anthony Johnson

The Eels are set to hit the player market as they search for a hooker before June 30 following the season-ending injury to inform rake Nathan Peats.

Peats tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the Eels' 38-12 loss to Penrith last Friday night. His injury, and with back-up dummy half Kaysa Pritchard sidelined for at least two more weeks with a shoulder injury, has left Parramatta coach Brad Arthur short of choices. Pritchard will have a cortisone injection before returning as his shoulder struggles to respond to treatment.

Back-up halfback Luke Kelly looks set to wear the No.9 jersey, with back-rower Joseph Paulo able to relieve Kelly for a short spell. Kelly spent some time at dummy half playing for Wentworthville in the NSW Cup last weekend, following Peats’ injury.

With less than a month before trading halts for this season, and with a bulging salary cap, the Eels may struggle to recruit someone before the June 30 deadline.

Parramatta will go to the transfer market in the hope of signing a hooker until at least the end of this season. Former hooker Matt Keating – who was shown the door by the club at the end of last season – has emerged as a potential target. Keating has been playing five-eighth for Burleigh Bears in the Queensland Cup in recent weeks with former Penrith and Sydney Roosters player Nafe Seluini playing hooker.

Arthur said the club’s hooker depth had worried him before his arrival, with Peats earmarked as an 80-minute player.

“It was an area that we were concerned about,” Arthur said. “We thought we’d be right if we got an injury anywhere else.

“We’ve had quite a few options thrown at us. It’s just going to take some time to sit through it. We haven’t had any time.

“We’ll try [and sign someone] but you’ve got to have room to do it.”

Peats had been a revelation for the Eels since joining the club from South Sydney this year. Along with Jarryd Hayne, he had become one of the most important players in the Eels' line-up, highlighted by the club’s 54-4 drubbing when Peats was suspended for an off-season incident. Kenny Edwards played in Peats’ absence, but he is more accustomed to playing in the back-row.

“[Peats] was playing well and he is going to be missed,” Arthur said. “It’s hard for him because he is a competitor and was getting some form on the board. There was talk about him being an Origin chance.

“He was carrying a lot of other injuries so he can get himself right for next year now.”

Eels centre Will Hopoate said Peats’ injury was a blow to the team.

“He is a loss,” Hopoate said. “He is such a great player. He plays the game hard. We’ll definitely miss him. He brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm and mongrel which was needed.”

This story Keating in the mix to fill Peats' shoes first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.