The Panthers want to build their future around Nathan Cleary. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
The Panthers want to build their future around Nathan Cleary. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Clause threatens Penrith's rumoured $10m Cleary deal

NATHAN Cleary's contract drama remains a house of cards for Penrith, according to reports.

The star halfback has reportedly been offered a long-term contract extension through to the end of 2023 with the Panthers.

Penrith football boss Phil Gould has even declared publicly he is confident of finalising the deal soon.

It could still collapse at the final hurdle, however, with reports of a clause within the deal that would allow the NSW State of Origin star to walk away from Penrith if the club is unable to deliver on its promise to bring his father, Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary, back to the foot of the mountains at the end of 2020.

Ivan Cleary remains contracted with the Tigers through to the end of the 2020 season - and Wests Tigers officials have publicly declared their intent to hold him to the deal, despite Penrith's reported move to offer him a three-year deal beginning after his contract concludes with the Tigers.

The Panthers' move to bring Ivan Cleary back has left the Tigers and Panthers in a reported stalemate.

The Tigers are angling for the Panthers to fork out up to $1 million in compensation for them to allow Ivan Cleary to jump ship early.

Will he sign or not? Big bucks may not be enough for Nathan Cleary. Picture: Getty
Will he sign or not? Big bucks may not be enough for Nathan Cleary. Picture: Getty

However, the Panthers may play dirty and wait until the Tigers decide to release Cleary on their own accord because of the "untenable" situation surrounding having a coach who already has one foot out the door.

On Thursday morning The Daily Telegraph's Dean Ritchie told Sky Sports Radio he had heard unsubstantiated rumours the Panthers' five-year offer for Nathan Cleary and three-year offer for Ivan Cleary could be worth a staggering $10 million combined.

It came after The Australian's Brent Read first reported Nathan Cleary's contract clause on Wednesday night.

Penrith is clearly gambling its future on locking down the Cleary family, but rugby league great Laurie Daley believes a lot could change before Ivan's proposed return to the club in 2021.

"If the coach and the star player are getting a lot of money and they don't have success, things can unravel very quickly," Daley told Sky Sports Radio.

"I'd get on the front foot if I was the Wests Tigers and I'd be making a phone call to Ivan and saying, 'Mate what are you doing?'

"And if he says he's going to honour his contract but he wants to go to Penrith in 2021, I'd be making a phone call to Michael Maguire trying to get a deal done and trying to get some compensation off Penrith to release Ivan to go straight away.

"Michael Maguire would be my number one target if I was CEO of the Tigers."

 On Wednesday night, Fox League NRL 360 host Paul Kent declared the Tigers would  likely have to grant Cleary a release in order to avoid "a rotten sandwich".

"It's a clever play. Penrith are being very clever about this," Kent said.

Best buds. Nathan and Ivan Cleary.
Best buds. Nathan and Ivan Cleary.

"It blew up in their face then they sacked (Anthony) Griffin and they showed immediate interest in Cleary and they did not expect the resistance from the Tigers to say, 'No way are we going to release Ivan Cleary.'

"What they're doing now is boxing the Tigers into a corner here and the Tigers, unless they get smart pretty quickly, they are going to find themselves with a rotten sandwich here.

"This is what the Tigers have to consider: if Ivan Cleary comes to terms with the Panthers to coach in 2021, 22 and 23, so he's got 19 and 20 at the Tigers... it's untenable.

"They need to change. You can't leave a coach in control of your club when in two years' time he's going to go over and take over a direct rival.

"It is so important these days to recruit well, to develop your players well... you don't want to have this question mark over every decision Ivan Cleary makes over the next two years, because as a club it is your duty to question everything he does.

"So every contract he offers, every recruitment decision he makes, you have to sit there and meet as a football department and say, 'Do we trust this?'"

On Wednesday, Gould suggested caretaker coach Cameron Ciraldo would remain in charge of the club for the 2019 NRL season after guiding the side through the final six weeks of their season.

The 33-year-old was handed the reins after Anthony Griffin's sacking four weeks out from the finals and Gould said the club had no reason to bring in anyone else.

- with AAP