WESTS Tigers star Benji Marshall says he’d harbour no ill feelings towards coach Ivan Cleary if he leaves the club to join his son Nathan at Penrith.
The NRL’s biggest ever coaching carousel is expected to begin spinning again within weeks, with the Panthers still a possibility of luring Cleary back to the club before next season.
Cleary is signed with the Tigers until the end of 2020 and would require a release to join this summer — a move likely reliant on the Tigers securing a senior statesman in Wayne Bennett or Michael Maguire.
Bennett himself would need a release from his final year at Brisbane, who have been linked to under-contract South Sydney mentor Anthony Seibold.
Marshall hasn’t spoken with Cleary since the end of the season but said he could understand him signing on now to join Nathan at Penrith for 2021 — a move the veteran predicted could see Cleary immediately released by the Tigers.
“Being a dad I understand that, wanting to coach your son,” Marshall told AAP. “And I think he wants to coach his son because he wants to take the decision out of Nathan’s hands, so Nathan doesn’t have to leave his mates at the club where he is at.
“If Ivan feels he can take that pressure off Nathan, he feels like he is doing his son a favour too.”
Cleary told Marshall at the end of the 2018 season that he would honour his contract but the five-eighth felt his coach was entitled to look at his long-term interests.
The 33-year-old remains indebted to Cleary, who allowed him to return to the Tigers and supported him to play on again next year.
He also defended the coach against critics who claim the possible move would go against his “on-the-bus” mantra, which rose to prominence on his arrival at the Tigers in 2017 during prolonged high-profile player contract negotiations.
“He accidentally came up with it at a press conference. He didn’t think it through and say I’m going to come to the Tigers and say let’s get on the bus,” Marshall said. “People have feelings about it because I think he’s done such a great job in turning the club around.
“People feel let down because they see the promise our team had last year, the turn around our club had. And they feel let down because they love him.
“If he was coaching shit and we were playing shit then no one would care.”
Marshall, who helped promote Mexican restaurant Zambrero’s world food day drive initiative Tuesday, said the culture Cleary had created would stay on regardless of who was coach.