A defence of Gus Gould’s musical chairs approach at Penrith

Mr X Roar Guru

By Mr X, Mr X is a Roar Guru

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    Penrith Panthers are under immense pressure to finally fulfill their potential in 2018.

    More recently, General Manager Phil Gould has been the target of public scrutiny over the club’s revolving-door playing roster. Since Gould took charge of the Panthers in 2011, the Mountain Men have been transformed from cellar dwellers to potential premiership contenders. But Gould’s tenure has also coincided with significant player turnover.

    The issue has become more prominent following the departures of Bryce Cartwright, Leilani Latu and Matt Moylan in the past four months. The decision to release both Moylan and Cartwright, in particular, has been questioned given the duo signed new deals in September 2016 to keep them at Penrith Stadium until 2021.

    Moylan and Cartwright were symbolic of Gould’s strong belief in the importance of local development in Penrith’s future. How is it that, only a year-and-a-half after signing long-term deals, two of Penrith’s most important players decide to leave with the Panthers’ premiership window still well and truly open?

    As General Manager of the club, Gould’s decision-making has been rightfully examined given the quality of players who have departed in recent years.

    However, as Gould recently explained in an interview with Phil Rothfield, “behind every player we release, there is a story and a reason.” By investigating some of the most significant player exits from Penrith, it’s clear that there’s justification behind the vast majority of Gould’s decisions.

    Phil Gould and the Channel Nine team - is it really necessary to have a 50 minute lead-in before each Origin game?

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Bryce Cartwright
    Cartwright’s release looks a fair decision given the concerns that plagued his 2017 season both on and off the field. The skillful forward’s departure was necessary to give him a fresh start away from Sydney, where he was constantly reminded of the personal demons that held back his development.

    Ultimately, if Cartwright was not comfortable at Penrith, it’s unlikely he’d have been able to fulfill his potential.

    In terms of form, Cartwright was a shadow of his former self last year. However, there were no guarantees he would ever rediscover the form that saw him touted as a potential Origin bolter in 2016. Cartwright admitted that in order to improve as a player, he needed to get out of Sydney. There was little that Gould could have done in this situation.

    Leilani Latu
    Latu’s breakout season in 2016 saw him emerge as one of the most skillful big men in the game. The front rower bagged four tries, four line breaks and five try-assists in 22 games, adding much-needed spark off the bench.

    Last year, however, Latu struggled to deliver the same impact, resulting in just two tries, one line break and no try-assists from 19 games. The Panthers boast extensive depth in their forward pack and Latu would not have been guaranteed a bench spot in 2018 with that kind of form.

    Matt Moylan
    Moylan was expected to be the poster boy of Penrith – a role model for all Panthers fans to look up to. It was a significant factor in making him captain. Unfortunately, a series of behavioural issues meant that Gould had little choice but to let the promising fullback turned five-eighth go.

    The decision to release Moylan was also valid considering what the Panthers received in return – two-time premiership winner James Maloney. While Moylan lacked game management skills and an established kicking game, Maloney has both in spades and should have the right influence on the promising Nathan Cleary.

    Matt Moylan of the Panthers runs the ball up

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    Mitch Rein
    Rein joined the Panthers in 2017 and was a dependable fill-in for regular hooker Peter Wallace. While it would have been preferable to hold onto the experienced dummy-half, the club views Sione Katoa as the short-term successor to Wallace.

    Peta Hiku
    Hiku’s versatility was perhaps the only reason Penrith fans would be lamenting his departure. The Kiwi international struggled to make an impact in his time at the Panthers.

    An ACL injury saw Hiku make just 11 appearances for Penrith in 2016, while he only managed one try and one line break in an underwhelming start to his 2017 campaign. Depth was the greatest asset that Hiku offered to the Panthers given the emergence of Waqa Blake and comeback of Dean Whare.

    Te Maire Martin
    At the time, this decision appeared hasty. Martin and Cleary were given just seven games together before the former was dropped and released to the Cowboys. However, this choice was Martin’s rather than that of the Panthers.

    The opportunity to work under Johnathan Thurston is one few would refuse. Martin has immense potential but he was still developing, and his combination with Cleary was just not working due to their inexperience. This is a decision that was the right one in the short-term but, like the release of Moylan, one that Gould may regret in the future.

    Jamie Soward
    Soward’s experience and game management was a big reason for Penrith’s rise in 2014. The former Dragon posted 18 try-assists from 25 games that year. However, in the following two seasons, Soward failed to deliver, managing just 12 try assists from 28 games.

    The five-eighth had little left to contribute, while his departure also paved the way for rising start Nathan Cleary to get more first-grade opportunities.

    James Roberts
    Roberts has developed into one of the most exciting and potent centres in the competition at the Broncos. The speedster’s talent was never in question. Rather, a series of off-field incidents left Gould with little choice but to sack Roberts in 2014.

    Having been dismissed by the Rabbitohs in 2012 for disciplinary reasons, Roberts displayed little personal growth two years later when he smashed a taxi window. Despite his potential, the decision to part ways with Roberts was the right one given his lack of maturity at the time.

    Lachlan Coote
    Coote was another product of the Penrith junior development system. While a consistent performer, Coote’s release was well considered given his history of injuries and the rise of Matt Moylan in 2013.

    Since making his debut in 2008, Coote only twice managed more than 16 games in a season due to a variety of injuries. After five years of service, it was a timely decision that Coote would be let go to allow for Moylan’s development.

    Michael Jennings
    Jennings was one of the high-profile players let go by Gould in his first few seasons in charge. While Jennings has since established himself as one of the most consistent centres in the NRL, the verdict to release him was the right one bearing in mind Jennings’ behavioural issues at the time.

    Jennings missed training sessions and, when he did bother to turn up, was occasionally hungover – a terrible look for the club. The Australia and Tonga international was on a contract worth approximately $650,000 a year. He simply wasn’t worth it considering the attitude problems he had.

    Michael Jennings makes a break for Tonga

    (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

    Luke Lewis
    Following his decision to leave, Lewis openly admitted he felt stale and needed the change to reinvigorate his career. Getting the best out of any player who’s not fully committed is always difficult and thus the decision to let the backrower leave was understandable.

    Regardless, this is one move that I believe Gould would regret given what Lewis’ experience and consistency could have offered to the developing Penrith squad.

    Evidently, while Gould’s time at Penrith has coincided with a significant increase in player movement, the majority of these changes made sense. Gould’s most important decision, however, will come shortly – if Nathan Cleary is granted a release the pitchforks will be well and truly out.

    Cleary is the new face of the Panthers brand – young, well-spoken and freakishly brilliant on the field. The Panthers can build a dynasty around the 20-year-old and their recent releases should free up enough money to be competitive in any bidding war.

    While the departures above were justifiable, if Cleary joins them, I’ll have no defence.

    The New South Wales State of Origin team for the 2018 series remains a mystery, with new coach Brad Fittler facing plenty of selection headaches. So we want you to tell us - and all your mates - who should start for Blues in Game 1 with our team picker.

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    The Crowd Says (55)

    • February 13th 2018 @ 6:31am
      jeff dustby said | February 13th 2018 @ 6:31am | ! Report

      we all know the real reason Te Maire Martin was let go

      • February 13th 2018 @ 8:35am
        BA Sports said | February 13th 2018 @ 8:35am | ! Report

        That story was a complete beat up.

        I think Martin is over rated, but the other player you are talking about swears it never happened and he has no idea where that rumor started.

        • Roar Guru

          February 13th 2018 @ 9:31am
          Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

          That rumour has been quite strongly denied and was just unnecessary nonsense from the media.

          • February 13th 2018 @ 11:45pm
            souvalis said | February 13th 2018 @ 11:45pm | ! Report

            Maybe it was just a rumour,but it carried enough credence for the Warriors who had a deal done and dusted with TMM to pull it at the eleventh hour..they back flipped on idle gossip ?

            • Roar Guru

              February 14th 2018 @ 10:05am
              Mr X said | February 14th 2018 @ 10:05am | ! Report

              Well the Warriors were ultimately quite ignorant to drop out over a rumour without actually investigating it properly. TMM went to NQL solely for the opportunity to play under Michael Morgan and Jonathan Thurston, definitely not because of that rumour. Pretty much everyone has come out and rubbished it.

              • February 14th 2018 @ 11:13am
                souvalis said | February 14th 2018 @ 11:13am | ! Report

                Yeah,there’s no way the Warriors would have thoroughly checked that out…

              • Roar Guru

                February 14th 2018 @ 11:25am
                Mr X said | February 14th 2018 @ 11:25am | ! Report

                Do you seriously believe everything you hear in the media though?

    • February 13th 2018 @ 8:07am
      PanthertillIdie said | February 13th 2018 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      I can’t disagree with many aspects of your article. I was getting ready to argue aggressively if you were to justify the Luke Lewis move but everything you’ve said seems pretty accurate.
      We are lucky to have a bit of a conveyer belt of talent but there seems to be a continual problem of retaining it. I don’t know whether this is just because we are not a ‘glamour’ club or whether we’re just not competing in the dollar stakes or whether there really is s discord between the coaching staff and the playing roster.
      Gould has been instrumental in resurrecting the club when it was inexplicably on its knees and as a panthers fan I can’t help but love him. As I alluded to earlier I can find a justification in most of the player exits from Penrith. The one criticism I do consider for Gus was the seemingly knee jerk decision to sack cleary as coach. I’m not feeling we’ve upgraded any way in Griffin.
      One thing that cannot be disputed is that Penrith need to throw everything at making Nathan Cleary a ‘Franchise player’. His potential knows no bounds and if Gus is to atone for dismissing senior, he needs to sign junior!
      Also, Cleary absolutely, categorically has to play in 7 for NSW. If he’s not picked I immediately give up on Freddy even though he’s one of our legends.
      Go the panthers!

      • Roar Guru

        February 13th 2018 @ 9:34am
        Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        I definitely do wish we found a way to keep Lewis – he would have provided great direction and guidance for our young forward pack. As for Gould’s decision to sack Cleary – I can deal with it given that it facilitated the immediate rise of his son Nathan. If Cleary Senior was still coaching here, there is every chance Cleary Junior may still have not debuted. My only hope is that Ivan Cleary is potentially sacked at the Tigers and retires from coaching so that Nathan doesn’t leave! In saying that, if Penrith finish Top Eight (preferably Top Four) and the Tigers are stuck near the bottom again, I doubt he will move from a club with a shot at a premiership to one competing for the spoon.

      • February 14th 2018 @ 12:01pm
        souvalis said | February 14th 2018 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

        @‘Do you seriously…..’
        The ones that are direct quotes from TMM’s manager getting stuck into the Warriors carry a bit of weight…..don’t you think ?
        Makes far more sense than ‘everyone’s come out and rubbished it’..because one significant player in this fracas clearly hasn’t…

        • Roar Guru

          February 14th 2018 @ 12:15pm
          Mr X said | February 14th 2018 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

          This was the statement put after his release – surely Gould doesn’t go to the effort of defending him if he had done something so wrong? https://www.penrithpanthers.com.au/news/2017/06/16/statement-on-te-maire-martin/

          • February 14th 2018 @ 12:37pm
            souvalis said | February 14th 2018 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

            Peter Mullholland does a good podcast on what clubs put out to the media about players and why..pretty interesting..

            Anyway,it’s neither here nor there what he did..

            • Roar Guru

              February 14th 2018 @ 12:57pm
              Mr X said | February 14th 2018 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

              No I definitely understand that clubs tread lightly around serious issues regarding players and like to keep things hidden from the public at times. But obviously I wasn’t going to mention it in my article because it is still just a rumour and would be unfair to TMM to restart it again.

    • Roar Guru

      February 13th 2018 @ 8:22am
      The Barry said | February 13th 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      I guess in Gould’s defence, it sends a pretty strong message to the rest of the squad that no one is bullet proof when it comes to behavioural issues.

      There must be a level of frustration for Panthers fans to see homegrown players moved on, regardless of who’s to blame.

      Also to Gould’s credit he doesn’t air dirty laundry in public. “There were reasons…that’s all you need to know” is a pretty good response.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 8:40am
        BA Sports said | February 13th 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        Yeah, fair play to Gould – You can say what you want about him, but he is willing to take the hits and wear all the punches in order to protect the players privacy. He stands up infront of the media or sits by their side. He at least faces the music.

        I think Gould realises the importance of club culture and he is trying to build that at Penrith. As someone who grew up watching the Eels and watching the juniors all walk out the door, i get the fans frustrations, but you actually can’t keep them all.

        • Roar Guru

          February 13th 2018 @ 9:39am
          Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

          I was definitely frustrated to see Moylan and Cartwright go. I thought Moylan would be there for 10 years or something – the club was building around him and I could not entertain any rumours he was leaving. Yet, nevertheless, it just had to happen to ensure the culture at the club was right as you have said. I definitely do respect Gould for his commitment – he appears to have a great quality in that he acknowledges when a player is not happy at the club and looks out for them in terms of accepting that there are better opportunities for them. He is quite selfless in that respect, which is admirable as long as we don’t lose all our players!

    • February 13th 2018 @ 9:43am
      Paul said | February 13th 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      At what point though, do Panther fans get sick of seeing such talent disappearing to other clubs, often having great success once they leave. It’s all well and good for Gould to say players have issues, but there’s not a Club in the comp where that’s not the case. Some Clubs, like the Storm for example, seem to be able to manage these better than others.

      Maybe this something the Panthers need to investigate further. The player drain they have experienced in the past 5 years will kill off any chance they have of winning a premiership, until this is sorted.

      • Roar Guru

        February 13th 2018 @ 10:32am
        Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        Morning Paul. I am definitely a bit tired of seeing so many players leaving – in particular I am worried about our depth and over reliance on our young kids coming through to fill in if needed. However, despite this, in this article I really just wanted to prove that, while it may be frustrating to witness, the player turnover at Penrith in recent years has been on the most part justified due to personal reasons and form.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 10:34am
        PanthertillIdie said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        I don’t disagree with you Paul. But when you say ‘often have great success once they leave’ I think a lot of the recent departures still have a lot to prove. Yes Coote and Lewis are examples of players who’ve moved their games forward by moving. More recently though, players such as; Moylan, Cartwright and Martin are players we have been dismayed at losing because of their great potential. They have a long way to go to prove themselves as outright NRL stars though.
        The positive as a panthers fan is that there is a well of talent that doesn’t look like drying up any time soon. If we can just get the (horrible word) ‘culture’ right then we might hold onto them and then maybe….

        • February 13th 2018 @ 11:14am
          Albo said | February 13th 2018 @ 11:14am | ! Report

          Oh Please Panther ! What’s the point of having a “well of talent” if you cannot cash in on that to win premierships ? We have watched now for years how the Panthers develop talented young players to such a point that they leave the Club ! For whatever reason you might want to use as the excuse ! They are not able to be retained or are traded off , and still no premierships in sight ? Surely, that is poor Club management. It doesn’t happen at the Storm or the Cowboys. They don’t lose any player they want to retain.

          • February 13th 2018 @ 12:56pm
            BA Sports said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

            Yes, but how did Moylan get his start? Coote got injured. If you keep Coote after 2013, What happens to Moylan? They can’t both play fullback at the same time?

            • Roar Guru

              February 13th 2018 @ 1:25pm
              Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

              Exactly BA Sports – at the time Coote’s move was justified by Moylan’s early form. They could not keep both. They were thinking of playing Coote at 5/8th but then he suffered a serious injury and his season was basically over. Meanwhile, Tom Humble filled in nicely and from there he left for another opportunity. It is all about circumstance.

            • February 13th 2018 @ 2:24pm
              Albo said | February 13th 2018 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

              So instead you end up losing both of them ? That solves the problem ? And we start all over again, yet again. The Panthers have a talent in Edwards there now. How long can we expect him to be with the Club to help them to win a premiership ? Will he stay some time, or go with Cleary to the Tigers or elsewhere in two years time ? Under the current regime and its record of key player retention, who would know ? My beef is with the poor management of the talent and roster at the Panthers, and it has been the same at the Club way back to the days of coach John Peard who decided a young Des Hasler could never make it in first grade in 1983. He goes to Manly straight into first grade where he stays for a decade and plays 13 SOO games & 12 Tests for Australia. Sure you can’t keep them all, but you need people who can recognise the talent that can progress to the top level, and the key types that can win you a premiership, and then the management ability to retain these good ones till you get to that point. Every Club has problem players that need to be managed and all clubs are under permanent onslaught from player agents looking to move players around and take their cut, but why do Clubs like the Storm or Cowboys manage to keep their key personnel in place for a decade and keep them always seriously competing for the title each year ? . I’m sure you recall the issues for JT at various stages at Townsville , but he was managed well, and is now the doyen of our game ! Whilst JT13 was chucking eggs at cars amongst other things , and is now signed to a $10m contract that keeps the Cowboys in the frame for another decade. What’s the difference here from the Panthers set up ? Good management . Something I fear is missing out at Penrith.

              • Roar Guru

                February 13th 2018 @ 3:06pm
                Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

                Well Gould could not have predicted Moylan leaving at the time. And Taumalolo’s incident was isolated, Moylan’s issue was at least a year long. But I definitely do understand your point. I am just putting the departures into perspective from what we know. Your arguments are certainly intriguing though. Perhaps the Panthers need to fight harder to keep their players? Gould certainly always has stood by the players’ wishes and perhaps that has worked against us at times. It really depends how much they want to be at the club, because if they have little interest usually this is evident in their performances.

              • February 13th 2018 @ 4:29pm
                Albo said | February 13th 2018 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

                Mr X , I guess my beef is that the really top shelf players in our game are very rare, and if you are lucky enough to identify one and develop one, you often need to manage them full time all the way to get the rewards from them. I just think the Panthers have let too many good ones go without working out the issues, but rather relying on that “well of young talent” to replace them. The problem becomes a vicious circle and you never actually reap the rewards of the development efforts.

              • February 13th 2018 @ 9:57pm
                Bob Pacey said | February 13th 2018 @ 9:57pm | ! Report

                Albo’s right here. If you have a once in a generation player, who happens to be a nong, you work hard to get his head right no matter what.

                I have time for Gould and the way he has helped players over the years but maybe he’s wanting quick results here and not allowing the process it’s time with some of them?

              • Roar Guru

                February 13th 2018 @ 10:24pm
                Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

                I did consider that myself with the Moylan situation and do think that perhaps Gould will regret losing him in the long run but for the short term, given that penriths premiership window may close soon, it was the right call and Maloneys arrival makes it an even better call as he is the perfect complement to Cleary.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 11:04am
        Albo said | February 13th 2018 @ 11:04am | ! Report

        Spot on Paul ! A well managed Club like the Storm ensures it doesn’t lose any of the key players it wants to retain and ensures the recruitment of the right auxiliary players to suit its squad is maintained. They have spot on succession planning so that they have quality players blooded ready to take over ( Croft, Scott, Hughes , Brandon Smith) when their retained legends ( Smith, Cronk, Slater) finally hang up the boots. In contrast we have the Panthers management in recent times that has shed key player after key player to try to build a team around Moylan & Cartwright, signed them to long 5 year contracts , and both are gone after one year ? And the rebuild has to begin all over again . Now it is all about trying to retain Cleary only, and a desperate hope that Maloney might turn out to be a good buy ? Unlike the Storm they have not been able to retain their key players, and you can make every excuse you like, but a well managed Club would have sorted out the ” issues ” in order to keep the players they wanted / needed. Seems in the Panthers cases of recent troubled players , the management has only exacerbated the problems. Seems to me someone heading up the Panthers management is way overrated in terms of managerial ability. As for talk about trying to develop a ” Panthers culture “, what is that culture ? Develop a bunch of juniors to such a point that they desperately want to leave the Club, or are traded off for another shiny star from elsewhere ?

        • Roar Guru

          February 13th 2018 @ 12:07pm
          Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

          Hey Albo. As a fellow Penrith fan I understand your frustrations in losing Moylan and Cartwright. Yet you seem to have not exactly taken into consideration the point I was trying to make in the article. I am sure that Gould would have loved to have held onto both but when you compare Moylan, who yes has a lot of potential, but also had behavioural and attitude problems (such as not giving it 100% in his recovery from injury) vs. Maloney a two-time premiership winner and experienced five-eighth to teach Cleary it was the right call. And I can’t understand anyone blaming Penrith for Cartwright’s exit – that was out of their hands. It would have been unfair if they forced him to stay considering what he had been through, he needed to get out of Sydney so he could focus on footy rather than the torment he was receiving off the field (which I won’t go into because it is personal stuff). As for the culture, well firstly, I would be pretty sure that drinking and skipping sessions when trying to come back from an injury as Moylan did is not exactly the culture that Penrith want to be building.

    • February 13th 2018 @ 10:43am
      JohnnoMcJohnno said | February 13th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      I still think Gus’s biggest error was getting rid of Ivan Cleary as coach. I don’t think Hook Griffin is up to scratch. His results over many years are bog average, and I really dont know what Gus sees in him.

      • Roar Guru

        February 13th 2018 @ 12:09pm
        Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

        I think Hook is a solid coach but can’t see him taking them to a premiership. If Penrith don’t make the Top Four in the next two years he has to go because otherwise it will just be a string of alright Top Eight finishes. I rated Brennan because he seemed to have a better connection with the players but he was untested at top level so it will be interesting to see how he goes. I do respect Griffin, however, for his willingness to make the tough calls such as dropping Soward for form to allow the rise of Cleary and dropping Moylan, Blake and Hiku for that drinking incident in Melbourne.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 1:00pm
        BA Sports said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

        As mentioned yesterday on another post Johnno – Griffin’s win/loss record at the Panthers is significantly better than Cleary’s was.

        And Cleary is currently the fourth most experienced coach in the NRL and the three above him have all won premierships. He hasn’t. There are no metrics around that suggest Cleary is a better coach than Griffin and given none of us are in the locker rooms, the video sessions or on the training paddock, I don’t see how anyone can make the claim that Cleary is better

        • Roar Guru

          February 13th 2018 @ 1:13pm
          The Barry said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

          I’d take that win / loss with a grain of salt though.

          Cleary took over when they were a bit of a basket case and was in charge of the rebuilding period. He got them to fourth and within a game of the grand final in his third year in charge.

          Griffin took over at a better stage.

          I look at the two of them and how players perform. Cleary seemed to get the best out of a lot of players, while I think you can point at Griffin and say a lot of his players have been performing below their best.

          • Roar Guru

            February 13th 2018 @ 1:28pm
            Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

            I feel like you have sort of nailed it there TB. Cleary appeared like he had a better understanding and personal relationship with the players and was therefore able to get the best out of them. Griffin, given his personality, does not strike me with much hope that he can really inspire the players to take their game to the next level. He really needs them to be finishing in the Top Four in the next two years or the club is just not really building towards being true premiership contenders.

          • February 13th 2018 @ 1:46pm
            BA Sports said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

            Cleary took over a team that finished 11th and they only finished better than 10th once, before falling back to 10th in his last year. Griffin has overseen getting them back into the eight, in consecutive years.

            At the start of 2017 the Panthers were favourites for the comp and many were saying that was crazy as they played above their potential the year before – Griffin’s first year.

            Plenty of the current crop and the recent departures played significant games under both (Wallace, Whare, Mansour, Grant, Yeo, Segy, Moylan, Mckenndry, Brown, Simmons etc..). Griffin has had to blood a teenage half back and still had a winning record.

            I don’t think it is fair for any of us to judge coaches relationships with players etc until a player comes out and says “i don’t like the guy”, because none of us witness it. We just hear what the tabloid “journos” think will make us click on their links. All we can judge is what we see for 80 minutes every week and so far his performances stack up. Cleary just appears to be an easier guy to have a beer with so people pile on Griffin.

            • Roar Guru

              February 13th 2018 @ 1:55pm
              Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

              I don’t doubt Griffin’s ability in turning Penrith into a Top Eight side – it is more so I am uncertain he is the one that can take them to the next level. He definitely deserves some form of praise for taking Penrith to back-to-back finals for the first time since 2003-2004. In terms of Cleary though, one thing to remember is that in 2015, the primary reason for Penrith’s downfall was a terrible injury curse which struck down most of their players. I would stick with Griffin for now, definitely, but I would want to ensure Penrith are finishing in the Top Four soon enough because otherwise their premiership window will close and they’ll have got nothing out of it.

            • February 13th 2018 @ 4:56pm
              Albo said | February 13th 2018 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

              BA, I don’t pretend to know what is going on at the Panthers regarding coach & players, but all does not seem right to me and it hasn’t been for a while out at Penrith. If I look through the squad that played last year ( and I watched them closely) , I could only nominate 3 players whose games I believe had improved from the year before ( Cleary , Edwards & Campbell-Gillard). Some players went backwards mainly due to lack of game time in my opinion ( Fisher-Harris, Latu, Leota) and the rest were the same as in 2016 ( up and down week by week). Serious team deficiencies were not addressed ( continual defensive lapses & lack of ability to score close range tries). And now we have once key players leaving the Club & others rumoured to want to move on too ? So is it the Coach ? Is it Gus ? Or is it just the way our “millennials ” prefer their footy careers ( with … eh ! …Whatever ! )?

              • February 14th 2018 @ 2:16am
                PanthertillIdie said | February 14th 2018 @ 2:16am | ! Report

                You might have answered your own question there Albo, the problem is possibly a mix of of all of those factors?
                I too watched all Penrith games closely last season and there were a few others that may not have gone backwards but didn’t exactly go forwards either. ‘Star recruits’ Merrin and Tamou only salvaged a pass mark for the season after gathering some late momentum but certainly didn’t achieve any distinction merits!
                They were great at getting downfield and into the red zone but had no end product to get across the line. You are right about their defence I think they might have had more missed tackles than anyone else.
                Passion, pride and leadership are not abundantly evident at the club and there is no local player that has risen to the elite NRL level and lead and demanded others in the squad to follow his example. Probably because – we don’t hold onto anyone!
                My mention of a ‘well of talent’ was about trying to remain positive about things at Penrith because without that things would be far more depressing for me.

              • Roar Guru

                February 14th 2018 @ 10:12am
                Mr X said | February 14th 2018 @ 10:12am | ! Report

                The stumbling attack near the opposition line was a massive problem and if it is not fixed this year I put that down to Griffin’s coaching because it was definitely what held Penrith back last year.

        • February 14th 2018 @ 12:00am
          souvalis said | February 14th 2018 @ 12:00am | ! Report

          Exactly the faulty thought process used to keep Des Hasler at the Dogs when his shelf life had clearly expired..if you watched the first nine weeks of Penriths season last year and the ensuing weeks of relentlessly,similar,unenterprising ,innovative deficient attacking football from this side,well,you couldn’t possibly begin to tell us that Griffin coached well in ‘17…

    • February 13th 2018 @ 11:50am
      Greg Ambrose said | February 13th 2018 @ 11:50am | ! Report

      The team I follow, the Eagles haven’t the depth of juniors to draw on and tend to let players go when they are past their best and likely to weaken the team they are going to. I’m fairly sure someone like Watmough was a bit of a problem in his early days but we hung on to him and he was instrumental in a golden run. Sure we let him go but he was stuffed by then.

      Jennings , Coote and Lewis were instrumental in helping other teams win titles and now with the big two leaving town as well questions are rightly being asked.

      The years are starting to roll on and the Pennies haven’t progressed like they should have. Gould is in some danger of becoming a bit like Hasler in a different roll. Too clever and ultimately plodding along into a corner.

      • Roar Guru

        February 13th 2018 @ 12:45pm
        Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

        Hey Greg, Coote, Lewis and Jennings etc have definitely gone on to be great players but at the time Coote going was the right call due to his injuries and the fact that he would have more opportunities elsewhere given the rise of Moylan. Meanwhile, Jennings had a poor attitude and no matter how good he may have been, discipline is just as important. I definitely do regret losing Lewis though. Cartwright had to go for his mental health, no question. Moylan was like Jennings with behavioural problems – in the long term it may be the wrong call if he fulfills his potential. Yet at this time, for the sake of the team, I back the decision.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 1:03pm
        BA Sports said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

        I like how last year everyone was throwing Cartwright under the bus as being over rated, error prone, a terrible defender and questionable off the field. Now all of the sudden he is a “top 2 player” at a club…?

        • Roar Guru

          February 13th 2018 @ 1:20pm
          The Barry said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

          Yeah…and I wonder how much of his release is opportunism from Gould?

          All of a sudden the Panthers have Yeo, CHN, JFH and Kikau as second rowers capable of playing big minutes. To be honest Yeo would be in my under rated 13.

          The Panthers were probably asking themselves “Do we need a talented but flighty player with high errors and missed tackles – even in his good seasons – who is on a five year, big money deal when we’ve got four quality, young back rowers on the books”

          “Yeah, we’re um, letting Bryce go….for his own good of course”

          How many of those guys can they lock up with the money that Cartwright’s release frees up?

          • Roar Guru

            February 13th 2018 @ 1:31pm
            Mr X said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

            Cartwright’s release was definitely mainly due to his mental health and need to get out of Sydney. Gould himself said he hopes Cartwright returns to Penrith at some point so I doubt he was glad to lose him. However, I definitely do agree – I rate Yeo over Cartwright due to his consistency and defence. Yeo just gets the job done and rarely ever has a bad game. Cartwright, on the other hand, can be a superstar one minute and average the next. He is a confidence player. If he makes a big error, he typically struggles to recover from it. I do think 2018 could be a breakout year for Kikau if he gets enough game time – he looks the goods.

        • February 14th 2018 @ 1:05am
          souvalis said | February 14th 2018 @ 1:05am | ! Report

          I’m a Shark supporter,but had family play at Penrith,so watch them intently and know what a good club they are..that’s what is so frustrating about this..the 2 game breakers at this club were Moylan and Cartwright,the best players at this club were Moylan and Carty…Isaiah Yeo ..an edge back rower who in ‘17 scored 2 tries and broke the line twice….How many quality games did you see Fisher Harris or Kikau play in the regular season..the latter showed some moves in the WC but given nothing but junk minutes thus far to call him ‘quality’..whilst the former looks like he’s going to have an injury marred career..

          These players wanted out,they ASKED to leave..Moylan had lost that much respect for the coach he refused to play the last month of the season…Cartwright sensed from the pre season he wasn’t going to get enough game time to proceed to the next level…the same reason Rein and more significantly Latu both asked for releases…this is so not about ‘can’t keep them all’ and totally about player management dissatisfaction..

          Glance at Clearys highlight reel,notice how much of his game is off the back of busts by Moylan and Cartwright..that’s gone now…considering the current climate,as his form and ultimately he,soon will be..

          • Roar Guru

            February 14th 2018 @ 10:23am
            Mr X said | February 14th 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

            Cleary’s form last year was due to his own brilliance not Moylan and especially not Cartwright. More than anything what I see is the slick combination he is forming with Dylan Edwards. Cartwright asked to leave because he could not stand to be in Sydney given the torment he was enduring off the field, so I would really hope that if any player has mental issues that bad, the club does not stand in their way and looks out for them. Yes, in hindsight, perhaps they could have fought harder to keep Moylan yet it seems like if he was clashing with Griffin, it was due to his disciplined style of coaching which Moylan didn’t agree with. If Moylan did not like it, he needed to learn to deal with it. Kikau admittedly needs to prove himself but with more game time he could do just that. If Cleary does leave, however, I will have nothing to say in defence of the club so fingers crossed they are smart and realise how important keeping him is and fight hard for his signature rather than using the ‘Ivan is his father’ card to easily submit and let him leave.

            • February 14th 2018 @ 11:45am
              souvalis said | February 14th 2018 @ 11:45am | ! Report

              Didn’t say last year,said highlight reel…in ‘16 when both Moylan and Cartwright were contented they were at another level..and took Cleary with them..

              Cartwright has been quoted as saying that the final straw pushing him into Gus ‘ office was the realization that Griffin wasn’t going to give him game time..the straw that broke his back..

              In your opinion X,how do you rate Griffins ‘disciplined style of coaching’ in terms of individual performance and output during ‘17 ? If,they start 2-7 again this year using the same plays and style,you’ll be satisfied ?

              Believe me,if it’s discipline the coach is requiring Maloney won’t last 2 minutes…the mentor,who’s never had a mentoring influence on a team mate halfback in his NRL life…

              • Roar Guru

                February 14th 2018 @ 12:21pm
                Mr X said | February 14th 2018 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

                1. Sure, they helped him in 2016 but Cleary showed in 2017 he is his own player and can carry this team by himself.
                2. Yeah potentially that was a factor but not the main one. Cartwright would have definitely started on the bench but if he was committed he would have fought his way back into the side like most do. His heart and head was just not in Sydney.
                3. Griffins discipline has nothing to do with their results. His actual tactical coaching does and I have admitted that that area of his coaching is lacking at the moment given how much Penrith struggled in the opposition 20 last year.
                4. Maloney is not Moylan though. Moylan was young and naive. Maloney is more experienced and professional – he may be a larrikin type but he is more wise and understands what is needed to succeed.

          • February 14th 2018 @ 12:53pm
            Albo said | February 14th 2018 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

            I think you have pretty much nailed it , souvalis !
            At least you can look forward to your Sharks adding some much needed attacking flair to their game with the addition of Moylan. And assuming he has got his head together and keeps out of Northies, he should add plenty to the Sharks premiership chances this season.
            As for us Panther fans, we have just got our fingers crossed that our now “flairless” Panthers team ( without the creative types like Moylan, Cartwright, & Latu ) can grind out enough wins to remain competitive this season. Just not sure we are equipped for the grind, with our defensive limitations. So where do we get the tries from to keep in front ? More midfield bombs & Hail Mary’s look to be on the cards ? Perhaps if guys like Fisher-Harris & Kikau get some game time they might add a new power dimension, but it would mean limiting the safer, one dimensional play of Yeo & Corey HN and that would seem far too risky an idea for the current Panthers regime ! All the balls are now squarely in Cleary & Maloney’s courts to make things happen somehow. No pressure boys.

            • Roar Guru

              February 14th 2018 @ 1:00pm
              Mr X said | February 14th 2018 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

              I do hope that Cleary and Maloney do fire Albo because their combination is pivotal to Penrith’s success in 2018. I do agree that Cartwright and Latu were two of their most creative forwards and you are right, Penrith’s pack now lacks that flair. That’s probably where Merrin needs to stand up – finding the balance between hard running and his (often untimely) offloads. He is getting paid a lot and needs to prove he is worth the money. As for their attack this year, I feel more confident with Maloney’s experience and game management that there will be less scrambling in the opposition 20 and more organisation. This is why I am optimistic about the swap as Moylan, as naturally brilliant as he was, lacked game management skills. Either way, we are set for an intriguing year as Panthers fans, best of luck Albo love your passion.

        • February 14th 2018 @ 7:15am
          Greg Ambrose said | February 14th 2018 @ 7:15am | ! Report

          I was struck last season on how slow Cartwright looked. I could be wrong but That’s how he looked. Lack of threat as a ball runner makes a creative player a lot less effective. Less effective and riskier is how it pans out I reckon.

          • Roar Guru

            February 14th 2018 @ 10:15am
            Mr X said | February 14th 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

            Cartwright just had a bad season on the field last year due to what was happening off it. It would have been hard for him to concentrate on footy. The move to the GC was necessary for him and while he is a talented player no doubt, he has also had his fair share of ordinary games. Couple that with the fact that CHN emerged last year and it is clear Penrith should be able to go on without him.

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