Anthony Griffin isn’t the victim in the Penrith saga

Andrew Jackson Roar Guru

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    Every story needs its villain.

    The trident-wielding figure who deceives us, twisting and distorting what is true. Then there’s the innocent victim, the bearer of all that is good and pure in the world.

    There have been two main protagonists in this week’s story. Phil Gould and Anthony Griffin.

    And there aren’t any prizes for guessing which one’s which.

    However, the real victim out of this fiasco isn’t Griffin. And Gould isn’t the only villain either.

    The Wests Tigers have obviously suffered after their club was dragged into the drama. It’s an unwelcome distraction as they look to continue their late charge towards a top eight spot.

    But there’s another fatality from this soap opera. One that few have considered.

    The Penrith Panthers themselves.

    Criticise Gould all you want. He doesn’t care.

    But don’t bash the Panthers as a club for his individual actions. Especially without first considering Griffin’s role.

    Phil Gould talks with Peter Wallace on the field.

    Phil Gould has denied he’s been pulling the strings at Penrith. (Photo: Tony Feder/Getty Images)

    Calm and collected, the former Penrith coach appeared on Fox League’s NRL 360 on Wednesday night to present his side of the story.

    The online community rose in support for the unfortunate victim of Gould’s ego as the pitchforks came out for the Penrith supremo.

    And sure, Griffin did handle himself well and claimed some responsibility, especially in relation to Matt Moylan’s demise.

    However, very few people actually considered what he said and instead were charmed by his composed demeanour, not even thinking of questioning anything that he brought up.

    Like the fact that he claimed Penrith was a mess when he arrived in 2016 and that its junior development system was in a foetal position.

    Outside of those who supported the club, everyone else remained blissfully unaware of how grossly incorrect this statement was. After all, Griffin did say it in a respectful manner.

    The victim out of this interview was the Penrith Panthers. The club prides itself on developing its own players to be the best they can be.

    In the reign of Matthew Elliott, before Ivan Cleary was brought in as head coach, only 20 per cent of the Panthers squad consisted of local products.

    Fast-forward to 2018 and this number stood at 80 per cent, with the likes of Nathan Cleary, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Sione Katoa now regular first-graders after coming through the club’s lower grades.

    During Cleary’s three-year coaching stint, Penrith had claimed two National Youth Competition premierships. They also won the New South Wales Cup in 2014.

    Current first-graders Waqa Blake, Watene-Zelezniak, Isaah Yeo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard had all made their debuts under Cleary.

    And 11 other juniors including Dylan Edwards, Cleary, Corey Harawira-Naera and James Fisher-Harris were already heading towards a similar path.

    Even further down the line, the Panthers had qualified for back-to-back SG Ball Grand Finals.

    According to Griffin, however, “the place was KFC and run around the oval.”

    In other words, during his time as coach, he had revolutionised the club’s development of its junior talent from lazy to the high-quality system it is now.

    Former Penrith coach Anthony Griffin at a press conference.

    (Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images)

    It is a claim that has been accepted by the majority of punters, simply because it fits their anti-Gould sentiments.

    And you are most certainly allowed to hate Gould if you want to. But don’t extend that to the people who have worked too hard to get its development system to where it is now.

    The club already spends around $2.6 million a year on its grassroots and junior rugby league development system.

    This is the image that Penrith has branded itself around.

    Which brings me to Gould.

    The 60-year-old has not exactly made this situation any better.

    While he has appeared for several media opportunities to tell his story, the tune of his narrative suddenly shifted on Thursday night when he revealed completely new information about Griffin’s sacking, including his fractured relationship with new coach Cameron Ciraldo.

    Choosing to air this on Channel Nine wasn’t a smart move. Intentional or not, the angry mob only hoisted their pitchforks higher in the air.

    Again, people’s hatred towards Gould again extended towards the Panthers as a club, with some even going as far as to say that Manly had been usurped as the most despised team in the competition.

    But can you blame him? When someone comes out and incorrectly criticises the club’s proudest achievement, of course Gould is entitled to provide a response.

    Cameron Ciraldo, the new caretaker of the side, has been interpreted as merely a puppet for Gould.

    He may have led the Panthers to back-to-back grand finals in the Under 20s competition and later been promoted as head coach of the Italian national team.

    But apparently, he isn’t his own man.

    He wasn’t deserving of praise for his promotion as he was only selected to meet Gould’s own self-interests.

    Penrith coach Cameron Ciraldo

    (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

    People just haven’t looked at this objectively because of their hatred of Gould. And Penrith as a club are suffering.

    Both Griffin and Gould have told fibs. It’s not possible that they haven’t given they continually contradict each other.

    The truth in the chaos will be found somewhere in the middle. There is a third story to be told.

    Ultimately, the betrayal portrayed by the media this week is worthy of being performed in theatres alongside Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

    Most believe this assassination was carried out by Gould.

    If the Panthers fail to win a premiership within the next five years then perhaps they are right.

    However, until then, let’s stop acting as if we know the truth.

    Along with the Wests Tigers, there has only been one another victim from this week’s drama.

    The Penrith Panthers as a brand.

    And restoring that begins on Saturday afternoon against the Gold Coast Titans.

    Gould can set up as many interviews as he likes. It won’t change anything.

    The club’s actions on the field in the coming weeks will speak much louder.

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    The Crowd Says (83)

    • August 11th 2018 @ 5:48am
      Stu said | August 11th 2018 @ 5:48am | ! Report

      Couldn’t agree more with this article and am very suprised many still choose to ignore the content of Griffin’s interview.

      Suprised no one has ripped into Crawley, Kent and Ikin for such a soft line of questioning on a supposed “hard hitting” league show.

      • Roar Guru

        August 11th 2018 @ 9:10am
        Michael Keeffe said | August 11th 2018 @ 9:10am | ! Report

        Let’s be honest it’s a bit like channel 9’s “hard hitting” interviews with Gus Gould.

        • Roar Guru

          August 11th 2018 @ 9:13am
          Emcie said | August 11th 2018 @ 9:13am | ! Report

          I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hard hitting interview around the NRL media.

          • Roar Guru

            August 11th 2018 @ 9:44am
            Andrew Jackson said | August 11th 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

            I’m still hopeful we may see them both interviewed at the same time, in the same room. Would be some bloody good television. But in all honesty, both need to stop, like now. Gould does because every word he says will dig himself and the Panthers as a brand further into a hole. He defended Penrith, nothing more needs to be said. I’ve seen Buzz is doing an interview with Griffin now. Given Buzz’s hatred of Gould there’s only one way that’ll go.

    • August 11th 2018 @ 6:48am
      Peeko said | August 11th 2018 @ 6:48am | ! Report

      Well said Scott

      • Roar Guru

        August 11th 2018 @ 12:19pm
        Scott Pryde said | August 11th 2018 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

        I’d love to take credit for this ripping piece of work, but I really can’t Peeko.

        This is all Mr X.

        • Roar Guru

          August 11th 2018 @ 12:55pm
          Andrew Jackson said | August 11th 2018 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

          Writes live blogs about every sport under the sun, gets talking points up in two minutes and now writes articles under pseudonyms… what can’t Scotty do?

          • Roar Guru

            August 11th 2018 @ 3:21pm
            Con Scortis said | August 11th 2018 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

            Far out, Scott is a magician. I’m sure I’ve seen Scott and Mr X blog at the same time (different sports). This means that Scott is either a warlock or he’s Batman.

    • August 11th 2018 @ 7:05am
      bigbaz said | August 11th 2018 @ 7:05am | ! Report

      Quite simply, the Panthers wouldn’t have damaged their brand if they had handled this way better. After the total stuff up of Hooks dismissal, Gould should have gone nowhere near the media till the heat went out of it. And the tiger debacle, so that’s not the Panthers, ffs.

      • Roar Guru

        August 11th 2018 @ 9:53am
        Andrew Jackson said | August 11th 2018 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        Look I agree and disagree with this point Bigbaz. As I’ve pointed out, Griffin did make some pretty wrong comments in his interview and most people just ignored/accepted them. Penrith officials were angry with some of his claims, particularly the one about their junior development system, so Gus had every right to reply.

        At the start of the debacle of course Gus fronted the media. He’s the GM of the club and silence would just make what he did look worse.

        Where I do agree with you is that now they simply have to stop. It’s descended into a childish tennis match of insults. Nothing good will come from it anymore, it’ll only distract both Penrith and Wests.

    • August 11th 2018 @ 8:16am
      Paul said | August 11th 2018 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      I can see your point that both sides in this issue, Gould and Griffin, have probably exaggerated in some of the statements they have made to the point of being questionable, but to paint the Panthers as a victim in this is completely wrong.

      The CEO started this by having an unrequested conversation with Cleary. The Panthers Board also inititiated a mid season review and the same Board & Gould decided to sack their first grade coach while being in finals contention with rounds to go in the season. The Panthers through Gould decided it would a great idea to chase Ivan Cleary even though they knew he was under contract for another 2 years, so they could make sure of keeping his son at the Club.

      The Tigers and Cleary are the victims here. Their aim to make the eight MUST have been disrupted by all thsse goings on, none of which they were responsible for creating. Massive pressure has been put on the coach at a time when he should be focusing on getting his team match ready to try and make the finals.

      Panthers members might consider themselves victims for having a Board & Gould who have created this avoidable situation, but the main losers are clearly the Tigers and both Clearys. Dad for obvious reasons and his son by daring to play for a different Club and be the NSW half-back. The other obvious losers are Tigers fans and members, especially if rthis impacts on their finals chances.

      • August 11th 2018 @ 9:09am
        Curaeus said | August 11th 2018 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        100% spot on!

        • Roar Guru

          August 11th 2018 @ 10:08am
          Andrew Jackson said | August 11th 2018 @ 10:08am | ! Report

          Look I’ll be honest and say the Tigers weren’t going to make the eight anyway. They showed in their effort against the Bulldogs that they can’t be consistent enough. But they definitely have been impacted.

          The whole Penrith brand has been tarnished from the top down and Gould and O’Neill certainly contributed to that, I won’t deny that. The main source of hatred has been towards Gould and I get that he is the face of the Panthers and therefore they are dragged into this.

          As I said, the team really needs to make a statement this afternoon. If they don’t and lose, the media will be onto it.

    • August 11th 2018 @ 8:46am
      Larry1950 said | August 11th 2018 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      I would have had a lot more respect for Ciraldo if he’d stayed out of the debate and not come out backing Gould’s “resignation” story, after all, he has a lot to gain from staying on the right side of Gus. As well, people need to remember that Peter Wallace & Griffin have had a love-hate relationship since their days at the Broncos so Wallace might have considered a bit of get square once he was forced to retire & was no longer reliant on Griffin for selection.
      At least that’s worthy of consideration.

      • Roar Guru

        August 11th 2018 @ 9:34am
        Emcie said | August 11th 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        I dunno, if he stays quiet does that make him his own man? Regardless of what he did he’s be helping someones story. If he stays quiet he’s basicly not refuting Griffins version of events and givien that he’s now fronting the media as a coach staying quiet would require a pretty determined “no comment” stance which would absolutely play into Hooks hand. I don’t think is fair to praise one party for being “honest” and down to earth and then criticise a third party for being “honest” because it supports the other party’s story.

        You could also say that Hook should have just stayed quiet and to be honest I’ve lost a fair bit of respect for him as a result of him quite deliberately pouring fuel on the fire. He’s far from the only coach in the NRL to get sacked mid contract but I’ve never seen one turn to the media quite so willingly. Even Hasler let things play out behind closed doors and he’s got a much higher profile than hook. Going straight to the media for a “tell all” the day after benifits no one but himself, and I’m sorry but “I’m doing this for my family” is the biggest cop out there is

        • Roar Guru

          August 11th 2018 @ 10:13am
          Andrew Jackson said | August 11th 2018 @ 10:13am | ! Report

          I really doubt Ciraldo didn’t threaten to quit because of Griffin. It’s an extraordinary thing to make up. Regardless, we’ll know the truth soon.

          I think he did well, Ciraldo dodged questions where he could clearly showing that he didn’t want to descend into only talking about this week’s events and Griffin himself.

          As for Griffin, I think he deserves to defend himself but it’s just everyone’s reaction to the interview that irritated me. It was clearly a job interview for him, meant to portray him in the best possible way and his calm and collected manner only aided this.

        • August 11th 2018 @ 3:38pm
          Paul said | August 11th 2018 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

          Emcie, I’d normally agree with your comments about Griifin pouring fuel on the fire, but he clearly felt he’d been maligned by Gold and wanted to tell his side of the story I have no issue with that, as long as it’s accurate, but some of his statements appear questionable at best.

          As for Ciraldo, I think he should have simply made a statement about being given the opportunity to coach the first grade side, etc and leave the rest alone. His comments were helpful in resolving the issue.

          • Roar Guru

            August 11th 2018 @ 4:57pm
            Emcie said | August 11th 2018 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

            I get what you’re saying, but I’m sure practically every sacked coach has felt maligned after getting the boot. There are ways of defending your reputation that don’t involve immediately going to the biggest rival to your former employer for what was always going to be promoted as an explosive tell all. The story before that didn’t have much to run on other then speculation and wouldn’t have had much of a lifespan if it had been left at that. That said, I don’t think Griffin was dishonest in his version of events, I just don’t particularly think that his view point is much more then just his view point.

    • Roar Guru

      August 11th 2018 @ 9:11am
      Emcie said | August 11th 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      We seem to be at the stage in this story where it’s more about picking sides then what actually happened. While watching Griffins interview I couldn’t help but feel that, even if you completely believe everything Hook said, if this had played out in any other workplace there wouldn’t be too many objections to Griffins position being untenable. Regardless of what you think of Gould, and I’m far from his biggest fan, there’s no argueing that Griffin worked under his oversight. In any business or organisation if someone in charge of a specific department decides to stubornly start doing their own thing in opposition to the direction of direct superior then they’re in the wrong, no matter how right they may feel their own way is. It doesn’t matter what you think those in charge or the direction they want to go, doing your own thing and subverting the organisational structures in place is purely self serving and I think it’s pretty clear that’s Gould isn’t the only ego involved in this situation. And I’ve gotta say, it’s hard to swallow the victim narative around a guy that’s just earned more money from getting fired then most Australians will earn in 30 years.

      • Roar Guru

        August 11th 2018 @ 9:47am
        Nat said | August 11th 2018 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Very true Emcie, I’ve never seen a sacked employee who didn’t point the finger back at boss. I can understand wanting to defend himself because these are high-profile jobs and he’s up against the biggest voice in the game. Griffin left enough to have people make their own assumptions, rightly or wrongly. Whereas Gould kept dropping bombs that didn’t completely align with each other. He said, she said without the full story.

        • Roar Guru

          August 11th 2018 @ 10:16am
          Andrew Jackson said | August 11th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          Yeah exactly. There’s got to be more to the story than Gould’s ego. Otherwise why would they fire Griffin four weeks from the finals? Jamie Soward (albeit a former player who got punted by Griffin, although perhaps this gives him more of a reason to speak the truth with little to lose) said that Griffin coached a boring style of footy that conflicted with that of the Panthers. This afternoon’s game will provide an insight into whether that is true you would think…

          • August 11th 2018 @ 6:32pm
            Wayne Turner said | August 11th 2018 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

            Don’t forget Soward’s other “conflict of interest” – He works for channel 9 as a commentator for the NSW cup game of the week. So he’s also not going to rubbish Gould and a current higher upper at channel 9.In fact I saw this as Soward sucking up to Gould.

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