Penrith look set to install Cameron Ciraldo as head coach for next year but they club continues to be linked to Ivan Cleary.
Panthers boss Phil Gould on Wednesday suggested that Ciraldo would remain in charge of the club for the 2019 NRL season after guiding the side through the final six weeks as caretaker coach.
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.
However speculation that Cleary could make a sudden exit from the Wests Tigers to return to the foot of the mountain won’t die down.
“I don’t see any need to change anything we’ve been doing for the last five or six weeks,” Gould said on the ‘Six Tackles with Gus’ podcast.
“I’ve been very impressed with Cameron Ciraldo and the academy staff and we threw everything in our academy at the NRL preparation.
“They did an outstanding job, I was really impressed with them.”
Ciraldo has a contract to be on the club’s coaching staff for next season and it was reported on Wednesday that the board had rubber-stamped him taking on the top job on a fulltime basis.
The club’s move to oust Griffin so late in the season resulted in speculation Cleary was set to exit the Wests Tigers, with two years still to run on his contract.
Cleary subsequently stated his promise to “honour” his deal with the joint venture, however, has since refused to answer questions.
It was also reported that the Panthers are readying to offer Cleary the role for 2021 – which is viewed by many as an attempt by Penrith to force the Tigers’ hand to release him.
Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe did not return AAP’s calls though the club has, until this point, flatly refused to entertain the idea of Cleary leaving early.
NRL clubs are not allowed to negotiate with players more than 12 months before their contract expires.
The NRL said that chief operating officer Nick Weeks was set to examine a request from some clubs to alter the laws governing coaching negotiations so that they be brought in line with those that regulate player rules.
Gould denied knowledge of any negotiations between Cleary and his club.
A return to the Penrith job, from which he was axed in 2015, would allow Cleary to team up with his son Nathan, who is expected to sign a rich multi-year contract extension.
The NSW playmaker has reportedly been offered a lucrative deal until the end of 2023.
“No confirmation but I’m confident we’ll get a deal done and he’ll be at Panthers for a fair while,” Gould said of Nathan Cleary.