GRAEME HUGHES, whose surname is synonymous with Canterbury, has emerged as a shock contender to head up football operations at arch-rivals Parramatta.
The Sun-Herald can reveal the Eels are looking for a football manager to assist chief executive Bob Bentley and that Hughes has emerged as the frontrunner. It is understood Graham Lowe is another contender for the post.
The Hughes clan has a long association with the Bulldogs. Graeme played alongside brother Garry and Mark in the premiership-winning side of 1980 when it was known as ''The Family Club''.
The Hugheses established a unique record at the Bulldogs over two generations, with six members appearing in first-grade grand finals. Graeme played 127 games between 1974 and 1982 while juggling a first-class cricketing career for NSW.
Garry's sons Glenn, Steven and Corey continued the legacy with impressive careers of their own.
The biggest rival during the ''Entertainers'' period was Parramatta, with the two regular combatants in finals, but this latest move could result in one of their own defecting to the Eels. Attempts to contact Hughes, now a broadcaster with radio station 2SM, were unsuccessful.
''We advertised the position and we're interviewing candidates at the moment,'' Bentley said.
''We haven't finalised any shortlisting as yet and are going through the stages of the process.''
The Hughes family had a spectacular fallout with the club they bled for over the sacking of Garry as football manager during the Coffs Harbour scandal in 2004. He reached an out-of-court settlement for wrongful dismissal and the family members later handed back their life memberships.
Bentley, who is the CEO of the leagues and football clubs, has previously spoken of the need for support in the football side of the business. The addition of Hughes to a coaching team headed by Ricky Stuart could provide the football acumen some critics say has sorely been missing.
Another high-profile candidate is Lowe, who has had a lifelong association with league on both sides of the Tasman. It is believed he is keen to be involved in the NRL and is interested in assisting the wooden spooners.
Meanwhile, Eels officials recently reached a new agreement with the Parramatta Stadium Trust that will ensure the majority of home games will be played at the ground for the next five years.
In an intriguing twist, 2SM has joined forces with 2UE in a bid to wrest the NRL radio rights from current holders 2GB. The radio rights were on the agenda at Friday's ARL Commission conference in Townsville, with a decision imminent.
There has been speculation that Hughes could join Channel Nine's Andrew Voss as a commentator should the consortium be successful. The joint bid has the appeal of broadening the regional reach.
And the Vikings Club, owned by the Parramatta Leagues Club, will not have to shut down after officials found a buyer for the business. It is understood the new owner is prepared to shell out $2.5 million on renovations and refurbishments alone.