Penrith Panthers boss Phil Gould. Picture: Toby Zerna
Penrith Panthers boss Phil Gould. Picture: Toby Zerna

Report: Panthers offer Ivan massive deal

FORMER Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has been reportedly offered a four-year deal to return to the club, less than a day after the Panthers sacked coach Anthony Griffin. revealed Penrith put a contract lasting until "at least the end of 2022" on the table to the Tigers coach despite Wests chairwoman Marina Go insisting the club wouldn't grant him a release.

Cleary's potential shift out west would likely result in son Nathan - Penrith's star halfback and NSW representative - snagging a long-term contract extension at the Panthers.

Channel Nine footy journalist Danny Weidler revealed on Tuesday the Western Sydney club had been in talks with the Tigers coach.

"The Panthers have talked to (Ivan) already and they were hoping he'd have an answer for them within 48 hours ... it does make sense if their most valuable playing asset for the next 10 years is Nathan Cleary. (It's) an obvious way of keeping him is if they sign Ivan," Weidler said on Triple M's Grill Team.

"A lot of things need to happen. He (Ivan Cleary) didn't part in great ways at the Panthers when he was previously coach there. There would need to be some relationships that would need to be mended."

Could Nathan and Ivan Cleary end up at the same club?
Could Nathan and Ivan Cleary end up at the same club?

Former NRL star and Triple M radio host Matty Johns said he was shocked by Phil Gould's timing to sack Griffin on the eve of finals.

"Was I surprised? I wasn't surprised, but I was shocked by the timing of it," Johns said on the Triple M Grill Team.

"Late last year I was told from the inside of Penrith that there were senior players, and coaching staff as well, that were finding it impossible to work with Anthony Griffin, before a ball was kicked this year.

"I reckon Phil Gould has had a look at this and thought look if I can move Anthony Griffin on I reckon we can win this competition … it's pretty cold, it's ruthless but it's the nature of the game."

Gould told reporters on Tuesday: "There were a number of things we spoke about through the year that weren't improving.

"We've had a number of meetings, the media and speculation was eating away at him (Griffin). Sometime things aren't working out but the club always comes first … he was a little old school, wanting to do everything himself, and in the modern day it has to be a collaborative process.

"People will come up with reasons why we shouldn't have made this decision, but our reasons were strong. I wanted to let him know straight away, his position was untenable with things going the way they are now at the club."

Gould refused to comment on speculation of a Cleary reunion at the club but said he had "no problem" with Tigers coach Ivan.

"I'm not going to speculate on individuals, that's up to you. Anything we say (regarding individuals) will be a distraction for the players. But I have no problem with Ivan."

Gould shook off whispers Broncos coach Wayne Bennett could make a shock move south to Penrith

"Wayne Bennett? That would be fun wouldn't it," he said. Could we work together? I don't know," he said. "(But) I'm not going to talk about individuals, that's ridiculous."

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.

Anthony Griffin leaves his western Sydney home early on Tuesday. Picture: John Grainger
Anthony Griffin leaves his western Sydney home early on Tuesday. Picture: John Grainger

News Corp Australia reported if a Cleary deal fell through that they would look at former South Sydney premiership-winning coach, Michael Maguire.

Maguire is 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 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.