Former Penrith coach Ivan Cleary is reportedly in the NRL club’s sights to make a shock return to the Panthers following the axing of Anthony Griffin.
Despite still being in contention to make the top four, Griffin was sensationally shown the door on Monday, Panthers boss Phil Gould citing the departing coach’s loss of the dressing room for his demise.
News Corp Australia reported on Monday night that Cleary was in line to return, having also been sacked by the Panthers back in 2015.
It is thought the sweetener of likely being able to keep Cleary’s son – prized halfback Nathan – at the Panthers is at least a part of the reason for the approach.
Gould confirmed to the Nine Network that the club had approached a specific individual.
“We do have someone in mind and we’re still waiting on an answer on that,” he said.
Ivan Cleary has two years left on his deal at Wests Tigers and would need to get an early release to return to the Panthers.
He has spoken previously about his strong desire to work again with his State of Origin playing son.
News Corp Australia reported that if a Cleary deal fell through that they would look at former South Sydney premiership-winning coach, Michael Maguire.
Maguire is currently coaching the New Zealand national team but has spoken about a desire to return to the NRL at some stage.
The findings of a recent management review at the Panthers appeared to be Griffin’s ultimate undoing, the key takeaway being he didn’t have the support of the players.
Gould said that reasonable results – the Panthers are currently fifth on the ladder – had masked deeper problems at the club and with Griffin.
“Head coaching is a very difficult job. I think that head coaches today have to rely heavily on their staff, heavily on the opinions of others and to have a more collaborative and communicative relationship with those that are there to assist,” Gould said.
“Anthony was a little old school in that he liked to do everything himself. But I think that he took to much of it on himself, too much pressure and at times that just led to some poor results.”
Assistant Cameron Ciraldo will be the Panthers’ caretaker coach for the remainder of the season.
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