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You're not really coaching Penrith until you're feuding with Phil Gould

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7th April, 2019

Phil Gould’s strategy to remedy the Panthers has been unique, with his five-year plan now in to its eighth year of hiring as many personal enemies as possible.

Whether it’s Ivan Cleary, Anthony Griffin, Wayne Bennett or his college hair colourist, Gould seems drawn to working alongside people with whom he can’t stand to be in the same room with.

Based on his current rate of collaborating with these Paul Simons to his Art Garfunkel, we should see Penrith pay out contracts to Phil Rothfield, Satan or his mother-in-law before the turn of the century.

The supremo’s turbulent reign at Penrith has brought an edict where a football operation can only be run provided it does not impede any dramatic internal feuding, and to a lesser extent, the dodgy tapes.

The latest fracture to emerge from under his watch has been tension with Ivan Cleary. The head coach is under fire for flagrantly encroaching on Gould’s remit by being head coach.

Ivan Cleary at Panthers training.

(Photo: Renee McKay/Getty Images)

The Panthers boss has since denied the rift, claiming he and Cleary have been friends for 24 years, and everything was fine last time they spoke in 1998.

Cleary was re-hired by the Panthers in the offseason, with the board unable to deny his tailor-made experience for the role as someone who has been sacked by Gould in the past.

Not only could he bring astute coaching and son Nathan’s signature, but he would be still stewing for being labelled ‘tire’ by someone with bags under his eyes like suitcases.


While this was playing out, Gould was working behind the scenes on his own replacement after ruling out interim coach Cameron Ciraldo because he was too easy to work with.

This resulted in the Channel Nine doyen sounding out Wayne Bennett for the role, who as one of his most despised enemies was considered perfect for the job.

So how does Gould always continually find himself working alongside people he’d probably swerve towards in the street?

Many would consider hiring your enemies as a bold strategy for improving a rugby league club, but I suppose anything is better than perishing, or worse, Brian Smith.

The tactic has hardly burdened Gould, who has undoubtedly been the catalyst for immeasurable improvement at Penrith when you consider everything except the failed finals campaigns and DUIs.

Under his watch, the club has shored up juniors, built a Centre of Excellence, and compiled a star-studded list that has boosted fan sentiment from dispirited ennui to unfulfilled frustration.

This has been achieved by clearing the roster of stalwarts and deadwood that underperform, and shrewdly replacing them with elite stars that underperform.

Gould’s internal warring has not harmed his reputation elsewhere either, with Cronulla recently making overtures for his services even though John Morris is a really nice bloke.

Phil Gould

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

So is the former Blues coach ever destined for a harmonious workplace? Or should he just cut his losses and join the Liberal Party or Oasis?

When you consider naked hatred as one of the game’s great bedrocks, Gould’s working day will probably remain as seven hours of phoning prank pizza orders to the adjacent cubicle.

Because let’s be honest – Gould’s current beefs are hardly Robinson Crusoe in rugby league.

The game has seen plenty of other functional discordant relationships, such as Gould vs Andrew Johns, Gould vs Ricky Stuart, Gould vs Bill Harrigan, Gould vs the NRL, and Gould vs Ray Warren.

Anything less is destabilising.

So in light of this, let’s hope morale remains afloat at Penrith with these continued spats.