He was one of Parramatta’s key off-season acquisitions but the Eels will have to wait until round two to hand a club debut to Kirisome Auva’a due to his breach of the NRL’s illicit drugs policy last year.
The former South Sydney premiership-winning centre signed a one-year contract with the Eels last November and looms as a handy addition to their back-line stocks.
The 25-year-old, however, will not be in the 21-man squad Brad Arthur names on Tuesday for the first-round match against Manly at Lottoland on Sunday.
Auva’a is ineligible until the following Sunday against St George Illawarra as a result of the 12-match suspension handed to him for a second strike of the code’s illicit drugs policy, an indiscretion that led to him being sacked by the Rabbitohs last July. That final game of that suspension will be checked off in round one.
“He will sit out round one. He won’t be able to play at all either in the NRL or the [Intrust Super Premiership NSW],” Parramatta chief executive Bernie Gurr said on Sunday. “But he will be back in week two and ready to go.”
The talented outside back played 39 NRL games for Souths and won a title in 2014 in what has been to date a controversial career. He was previously banned for nine months over domestic violence offences.
Handed a lifeline by Parramatta, though, Auva’a has taken to his new surrounds with vigour, according to the club’s boss.
“The information I’m getting from the coaching staff is that he has settled into the club very well and has been training terrifically,” Gurr said.
Where he fits into the picture in Arthur’s back line is another story. Brad Takairangi is expected to start the season alongside Michael Jennings at centre and while Auva’a will also be considered on the wing and two other new additions to the squad – former Gold Coast Titan Josh Hoffman and Jennings’ brother, George – make for a genuine competition for places.
Parramatta, meanwhile, will begin the season without a major sponsor but Gurr is confident the club will land a new corporate partner soon. Engulfed by a salary cap scandal last year, the subsequent reforms at the Eels were capped with their naming of a new board last Friday.
“We’re talking to some companies, obviously but we haven’t finalised a major sponsorship yet,” Gurr said.
“We think we’re a great proposition as far as where we are now as a club. We’re changing the way we do business. We’ve got a new board on board, a good professional management team and a great football program. And we’re the biggest professional sporting franchise in western Sydney by just about every commercial metric.”
Before they secure a major sponsor the Eels will run out with ‘Parra 1947’ signage on the front of their jumpers in recognition of this year being the 70th anniversary of their admission to the top grade.