The day Eels poached Salmon from Sharks

Dylan Brown claimed the title and man of the match, and Parramatta poached the Sharks junior that nearly stole both honours from his future teammate.

Long before Brown's bone bruising in his lower back rubbed him out of first grade indefinitely, he and Jaeman Salmon squared off as opposing halves in the 2017 SG Ball Final.

Brown and the Eels emerged with a 30-22 victory, but not before a 17-year-old Salmon threatened to steal the contest with a barnstorming second half, convincing Brad Arthur to sign him.

This Saturday, Salmon confronts his junior club for the first time at NRL level, coming into Parramatta's No.6 jersey in place of Brown against old Sharks teammates including centre Bronson Xerri, interchange hooker Blayke Brailey and reserve halfback Kyle Flanagan.

A healthy three-year deal lured the Caringbah local out of the Sutherland Shire when the Sharks were loath to lose him, with Salmon's debut a rare bright spot in Parramatta's disastrous 2018 campaign.

"We watched him for a while through the juniors, myself and Sharpy [Eels recruitment manager Peter Sharp]," Arthur told NRL.com.

Eels five-eighth Jaeman Salmon.
Eels five-eighth Jaeman Salmon. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

"There was the game where he played against our juniors in the SG Ball final a couple of years ago, there was a second half where he played the house down.

"Sharpy had been looking at him long before that but that second half that day, it was a very good Cronulla team that was coming from behind.

"And it was his running game that led them. That really impressed me that day and the Sharks nearly got us on the bell on the back of Jaeman.

"We got him in, showed him there was an opportunity at our club and it went from there."

Eels playmaker Dylan Brown.
Eels playmaker Dylan Brown. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Plenty of water has passed under the bridge since Salmon first crossed Tom Ugly's to leave the Sutherland Shire to make his name in Sydney's west two years ago.

First a life and career threatening neck injury that he unwittingly played through at a schoolboy carnival, potentially putting negotiations around his Eels move in jeopardy.

Arthur and Sharp stuck by Salmon's contract regardless.

Then over summer, he had a drink-driving conviction after flipping his car and crashing into three others in the process with a blood alcohol reading of 0.068.

Salmon cost himself a start in round one, his licence and a $10,000 suspended fine.

He now commutes from Caringbah to Parramatta via a 90-minute public transport journey, having also delivered a humbling PowerPoint presentation on the incident to his teammates.

"It was a really tough lesson he's learned out of it," Arthur said.

"He presented to both the playing group and our under 20s, he talked through a bit of a presentation on what he did, his punishment and what he's learned from it. It's helped him grow.

"He's got his TAFE course, he and Fergo [winger Blake Ferguson] are doing a carpentry course.

"He's had to make changes to his life for the better.

"We've moved him around a bit and he's taken it in his stride. And if he wasn't unavailable round one he might've got that opportunity earlier to be in the team.

"But obviously that opportunity went to others and he gets his chance now in the halves."