Cleary signing closes door on Gould return
Penrith general manager Phil Gould admits the door has finally closed on him ever coaching again after securing the services of Ivan Cleary to oversee his Panthers revolution.
Cleary, who played under Gould at the Sydney Roosters in the 1990s, was released from the final year of his contract with the Warriors to take up a two-year deal with the Panthers starting next season.
His recruitment cast doubt over the long-term future of current interim Steve Georgallis, while also erasing any thoughts Gould may have had of taking up the clipboard ever again.
“The last 12 months I’ve been thinking about it very seriously, very seriously, and I’ve had a few opportunities to do that,” Gould said of returning to coaching, something he hasn’t done since guiding NSW to a State of Origin series win in 2004.
” … when they (Penrith) missed out on Tim Sheens and they were looking for a younger coach, they were looking for someone to mentor them and I thought that would be a good way back in for me, but this job’s completely different, I’m right out of my comfort zone.
“If I’d have had to have been involved with younger coaches or development coaches or overseeing a program it would have taken away time from other work that we have to do.
” … I can sleep at night now knowing I’ve got a great coach who can take care of the job.”
Cleary’s decision to walk away from the Warriors was as much about long-term security as it was taking on a new challenge.
Gould was given a mandate to revitalise the Panthers, following a poor start to the season which led to a boardroom decision not to renew Matthew Elliott’s deal beyond this season.
Gould – who won premierships with Penrith and Canterbury – made it very clear that Cleary was his No.1 target, so much so that he was willing to wait until his deal with the Warriors had expired in 2013 to secure his services.
“I interviewed a lot of coaches, there were a lot of structures I was looking at, one of which may have involved even me being a coaching coordinator over the top of some young coaches,” Gould said.
“But in the back of my mind, Ivan Cleary either for next year or in coming years was going to be an important part of our development as a club.
“Any discussions I had with Ivan were virtually for 2013 and beyond which led me to those contingency plans, what do I do for the next 12 months, would he come in 2013?
“It’s really only been in the last 72 hours that this opportunity presented itself, the thinking was that if he was thinking of coming to us in the future, he may as well come now.”
Gould thanked the Warriors for granting Cleary the early release, with Brian McClennan, John Ackland and Cleary’s assistant Tony Iro all in the running to take over at the Auckland-based club in 2012.
He also commended Georgallis – who won on his head coaching debut at the weekend following Elliott’s mid-season departure – for his acceptance of the move.
Georgallis was putting the Panthers through their paces as Gould addressed the media on Wednesday and was clapped off the field by the entire squad, but whether he will have a role on Cleary’s staff remains unclear.
“That’s up to Ivan,” Gould said of Georgallis’ future.
“The head coach makes those decisions on the staff – if he asks me for a reference he’ll get a glowing reference.”