BY CURTIS WOODWARD
In what looks like one of the most remarkable power plays for a current star in rugby league history – the Penrith Panthers have reportedly offered former coach Ivan Cleary a four-year contract to return to the club that sacked him in 2015.
Panthers current halfback is Nathan Cleary and is off contract next season. Penrith desperately want to keep him and they know their best shot is bringing his dad and current Wests Tigers mentor, Ivan, back to the foot of the mountains.
According to NRL.com, Wests Tigers chairwoman Marina Go has confirmed her club will not release Ivan from his current deal.
“It is my view that Ivan will be with the Wests Tigers as head coach for at least another two years as he has a contract with us,” Go told the website.
This all comes after the Panthers sacked Anthony Griffin because there was a feeling he wasn’t good enough to win the Panthers a premiership.
Under Griffin, Penrith finished 6th, 7th and are currently 5th after two victories.
It is understood Griffin had lost the confidence of the playing group.
“We do have someone in mind, and we’re still waiting for an answer on that,” Penrith General Manger Phil Gould told Channel Nine’s 100% Footy on Monday night.
“I think there will be some more clarity on the spontaneity in the coming few weeks.
“But we didn’t want to go down the path of sourcing a new coach behind Anthony’s back without him knowing exactly what was happening.”
It is some turnaround from the Panthers and Gould who replaced Cleary in 2015 with Griffin.
“Ivan Cleary has done a tremendous job in his four years at the Panthers,” Gould said at the time.
“He has laid the foundation for the future and we are enormously grateful for his contribution to the club.”
It would be an incredibly hard pill for Wests Tigers fans to swallow too if Cleary was to leave Concord.
Many believed it would be young halfback Nathan leaving the Panthers to join his father in the black, white and orange – not the other way around.
The fact there is even a possibility Ivan could go back to Penrith hinges on how much he wants to coach son Nathan right now.
There’s also the chance Ivan stays at Wests and does coach Nathan but that wouldn’t be until 2020.