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Scott Bailey

Gutherson Eels' greatest gift of century

Discarded by Manly, Clint Gutherson has taken the Eels to the brink of NRL grand final glory. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

Parramatta may never be presented with a greater gift from their oldest arch-rivals.

It was hand-wrapped at Brookvale, and delivered straight to the Eels' front door by a Manly great at the end of 2015.

A Sea Eagles reject at the time after back-to-back injuries, Clint Gutherson stands as the man ready to end 36 years of torture for Parramatta fans in Sunday night's NRL grand final against Penrith.

And it took just one day from being tapped on the shoulder by Manly for Gutherson to decide his future and pursue a meeting with Parramatta.

"The day after I got the call I came and saw Brad (Arthur)," Gutherson told AAP.

"I still had a couple of years left at Manly but they wanted a bit of a clean out at the time.

"You learn from a young age it's a business, and teams have got to do what they've got to do.

"I met with Brad and knew exactly the path he wanted to go on.

"And as a player that's what you want, a path. The rest is history."

Gutherson had briefly worked with Arthur at Manly, but it was on the advice of another former Sea Eagle in Kieran Foran that the contact was made.

Foran had just moved to the Eels, having been won over by Arthur - who had reminded him of Des Hasler - during the coach's year as Manly assistant in 2013.

Arthur had moved to Brookvale after going from Eels interim coach to out of work when Ricky Stuart came into town for his ill-fated 12 month spell in charge at the club.

So when word spread that Manly were looking to move Gutherson on just five months after re-signing him, Foran knew the immediate answer.

"I was still keeping in touch with Gutho," Foran said.

"When it looked like he wasn't sure if Manly would keep him, I had a few conversations with BA (Arthur) about him.

"Just saying he's the sort of player that's worth going and getting."

Along with Stuart's brief stint, Foran's time at Parramatta during the 2016 salary-cap scandal was among the darkest days of the Eels' premiership drought.

But in tandem, the two sagas may have given the the club their greatest coach-player partnership since Jack Gibson and Peter Sterling in the 1980s.

"When Gutho was a young bloke he worked extremely hard, but he was also just a real footballer," Foran said. "I was a huge fan.

"I wasn't sure what his best position was, he had played everywhere.

"But I knew sooner or later he would work out where he was best suited and he was going to grab it with both hands.

"The last five or so years have shown that."

Within days of Arthur and Gutherson's meeting, the player was signed.

Arthur stuck by him as he misfired on the wing the following season, made him co-captain in 2018 and together they have rebuilt the Eels.

Come Sunday, they can follow in the path of Gibson and Sterling and help end the Eels' second great drought.

"You have to buy into that history," Gutherson said.

"You work so hard to get to this game, it's as high as it gets for rugby league."

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