Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has a monumental task ahead to get the Panthers back on track. Picture: Mark Evans/Getty Images
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has a monumental task ahead to get the Panthers back on track. Picture: Mark Evans/Getty Images

Panthers legend slams club over Gould and Cleary

PANTHERS legend Ryan Girdler has taken aim at the club's administration, saying they need to be held accountable for the "amoral" decisions that have led to Penrith's poor season start.

In a stunning spray on Triple M's Saturday NRL show, Girdler said the club had paid overs for halfback Nathan Cleary and coach Ivan out of fear, and alienated former general manager Phil Gould out of "basic stupidity".

The Panthers were thrashed 30-4 by the Wests Tigers at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, casting the spotlight on the team who were considered premiership material before the start of the season.

"I think you have to talk about the senior administration. I think it's an absolute mess," Girdler said, blasting the decision to poach Ivan Cleary from the Wests Tigers while he had two years remaining on his contract.

"I think what they did in the off-season was immoral in relation to approaching a guy that had re-signed and just started his tenure at another club.

"I think they made decisions based on fear - fear of possibly losing a young player, and I think Nathan carries a lot of that weight around and he shouldn't because none of it is really his doing.

"I think they overpaid, I think they overpaid the halfback and they overpaid the coach based on fear. When you're at that level and you're making decisions based on fear, it generally doesn't end well."

Phil Gould has denied having a rift with Penrith coach Ivan Cleary.
Phil Gould has denied having a rift with Penrith coach Ivan Cleary.

Gould walked away from his job as the club's general manager just a few weeks ago. It had been revealed he was close to signing coach Wayne Bennett to the Panthers for this season, but the club had already made an approach to Cleary and it wasn't communicated.

"To alienate a guy like Phil Gould, whether... and everyone's got their own opinion of Gus, but to have a great footy mind like that involved in your club and to have administration going away and making decisions basically knowing that that's going to force Gus's hand into a redundancy, I think it's basic stupidity," Girdler said.

"I think the board needs to be held accountable at some point because everyone is looking at the players and the blowtorch is on those guys and Ivan's going to feel it as well.

"I think when Ivan made a decision to come back under the circumstances in which he left the Tigers, he left himself opened up. They needed to perform this year and they're not.

"That's going to bring added heat and added pressure from the journos who are going to be asking those questions now, and Ivan needs to know that's probably what's going to happen for the remainder of the year and he's got a five-year deal.

"I just think the administration and Dave O'Neill on the board there need to be held accountable, as well as the players and Ivan, because it takes a contribution from everyone that's actively involved in the operation of this club to get themselves in this position."

Following their loss to the Wests Tigers, the Panthers are sitting on the bottom of the NRL ladder after nine rounds.

News Corp Australia


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