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Utoikamanu kept away from Eels training after COVID-19 breach

Rising Parramatta prop Stefano Utoikamanu will not be allowed to return to Eels training until the friends and family he embraced after his NRL debut are tested and cleared of COVID-19.

The 20-year-old rookie has been placed on a "COVID hold" by the NRL after he hugged relatives and well-wishers in Newcastle on Sunday, breaching the game's strict biosecurity rules.

Tests on Utoikamanu's family are expected to be returned within 24 hours, however, it is unclear how long it will take for those individuals to be assessed.

Provided they are cleared of coronavirus, Utoikamanu will then be allowed to rejoin Eels training ahead of Saturday's clash with Manly.

He is not expected to face any sanction by the NRL.

Match Highlights: Knights v Eels

"I didn't see it, but he's a kid making his debut," coach Brad Arthur said of the post-game interaction.

"I had to change a winger to get him on there to give him a carry … 10 seconds… I think the club has talked to him about it. It's just a reaction – he was excited."

Due to the COVID-19 protocols in place for the NRL, players are kept in "clean zones" and cannot touch members of the public at games or even at training sessions.

"As always we will be guided by the advice of our medical experts," Head of Football Graham Annesley said.

"We will then be in a position to advise the club and the player of any further action or protocol implications."

Utoikamanu only saw a few moments of action after Arthur shuffled his personal late in a tense 10-4 win.

Quick thinking from King Gutho leads to Sivo try

He is bound for the Wests Tigers next season having had a release request denied by the Eels late last year, and may struggle to hold his place for Saturday's trip to Lottoland if the COVID-19 drama impacts his preparation time this week. 

Turning to the game, Arthur agreed that despite getting their eighth win of the season, it was not the prettiest.

"We did a lot of defence at training this week – just focused on our defence and hardly touched the ball. It probably showed tonight," he said.

"But we knew defence would be important for us. And at the back end of the year we need to make sure we've got our systems in place with our defence.

"[Tonight] we've shown we've got some work to do with our attack but I'm proud of the defensive effort."

He said halfback Mitch Moses was probably ready to return next weekend, which should help spark the Eels in attack.

"Mitch [Moses] might be right next week. I won't have to worry about that until Tuesday," Arthur said. "If Mitch is right to play, he'll play because he'll want to play."

Mahoney sends Matterson over

In his absence, fullback Clint Gutherson is keeping defences busy.

Against the Knights – his try assist to Maiko Sivo winning the game – showed his quick-thinking and good instincts.

"He's really matured as a captain and leader of the team. He's so fit and done a good job on himself physically so he's never stressed, never fatigued and he's got clarity about the decisions he makes," Arthur said.

"He makes good decisions all the time."

Acknowledgement of Country

Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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