Wests Tigers chair Marina Go is adamant that her club is the only place a Cleary family reunion can take place within the next two years, putting the onus back on the Panthers to honour their promise to release their gun halfback if he wants to be coached by his father.
The declaration came as Ivan Cleary’s former teammate and brother-in-law Josh Stuart predicted the coach wouldn’t return to Penrith while Phil Gould remained in charge of the club. The Panthers have attempted to prise Cleary snr from the Tigers despite the fact he has two years remaining on his contract. He has made no secret of his desire to coach his son, Nathan, who has a year to run on his Panthers contract.
Gould has publicly stated he has no intention of standing in the way of the pair fulfilling their ambition of working together, leading many to believe the Clearys could reunite at the Tigers. However, the sacking of Panthers coach Anthony Griffin - and the pursuit of Ivan Cleary as his replacement - has the potential to make that happen at the foot of the mountains.
The Tigers have reiterated their position that Ivan Cleary is going nowhere before his contract expires, with Go stating the joint-venture outfit is the only place they can work together during that period. If the Panthers are keen to reunite the coach and son, the only place that could happen over the next two years is at our club,” Go told Fairfax Media.
In an interview on NRL360, Griffin painted a picture of Gould as a domineering figure who undermined his attempts to coach the team.
While Go wouldn’t comment on another club’s affairs, she said the Tigers provided Cleary with full autonomy when it came to coaching philosophy and recruitment - including if he wanted to sign his son.
“We have a culture where our coach is empowered to build the list he believes will get us to the grand final,” Go said. We acknowledge that at times we do it a little bit differently at our club. We’ve been building something very strong and that’s because we’ve basically said ‘here is the salary cap, you need to be compliant, but otherwise it’s up to you’.
The Panthers feel they are close to securing the services of Nathan Cleary on an extended deal, a move that would thwart the Tigers’ hopes of having the star duo on their books. Whether Cleary snr would ask for a release to join him remains to be seen but Stuart, his brother-in-law, believes that won’t happen while Gould - who sacked Cleary three years ago - runs the Panthers.
“I couldn’t see Ivan going back there while Gus is there,” Stuart said.