Eels back King at No.9
Eels players say reserve grade hooker Cameron King has worked hard for his chance and will do a good job in place of injured rake Kaysa Pritchard.
Parramatta are experiencing something of a hooking crisis with Isaac De Gois (concussion) out of action since copping a knock in the pre-season and now the hard-working Pritchard (knee) is out for the rest of 2017. Former Panthers utility Will Smith has performed strongly in the role off the bench and is likely to continue to share the hooking duties.
The Eels have little time to go to market for another hooker before this week's June 30 deadline and there are few available options regardless.
Back-rower Kenny Edwards said former Dragon and Cowboy King was ready for his chance after spending the entirety of his year and a half at Parramatta running out for Wentworthville in the Intrust Super Premiership.
"I think 'Kingy' is going to slot in," Edwards said this week.
"He's done his time in reserve grade in the last year-and-a-half and I think he really deserves his opportunity."
King will offer something a bit different to any of the other rakes at the club, according to Edwards.
"He's worked really hard. All pre-season he worked hard and he's probably our best ball-playing hooker we've got and that's a dimension we can add to our game," Edwards said.
"I know he's had a lot of injuries. He's worked hard to get this opportunity and hopefully he can take it."
King played 16 NRL games for the Dragons from 2010 to 2013, and four more at the Cowboys in 2014-15 but has had a series of injuries disrupt his chances at Parramatta.
"Kaysa is a massive loss for us and we just started to get comfortable. We love having him next to us because he can put a shot on and the energy he brings. He's a massive loss for us," Edwards continued.
"But Kingy has earned his position, he's been waiting for an opportunity and hopefully this week he can put his best foot forward."
Lock Nathan Brown, who has spent a few periods substituting in at dummy-half in his time at blue and gold, also backed King.
"I think Kingy deserves his shot. He's had a couple of years with bad injuries but to his credit he's held in there," Brown said.
The club will be well-served with King and Smith in the role, according to Brown.
"He's been good for us Will, off the bench, I think he's played like 70 minutes at hooker in one of his first games off the bench. To his credit, wherever you put Will he stands up," Brown said.
Brown wasn't planning on getting back in and bending his back unless things got desperate though.
"I'll probably just focus on the lock role but whatever happens, things might change during the game, if I end up there I'll deal with it," he said.
Like Brown, Edwards also ruled himself out of starting at No.9. Unlike Brown, Edwards has a very, very good reason for doing so.
"No way. I know I jump around from position to position, but I played there once in Round 2 in 2014 against the Roosters and they were the premiers the year before and we lost 50-0," Edwards laughed. (He's very close – it was Round 2, 2014 and the Roosters beat the Eels 56-4).
"I think that was the last time I'll play there. If someone goes down I can play a little bit of hooker, but I'm back in the back row now and my job is to nail that position next to Mitch [Moses in the defensive line] and not worry about hooker or five-eighth."