Wests Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe admits the NRL club’s fans have every right to be annoyed at Ivan Cleary’s decision to defect mid-contract to Penrith.
On another busy day on the NRL’s coaching merry-go-round, the Tigers confirmed on Sunday that Michael Maguire would replace Cleary as head coach on a three-year deal effective immediately.
Cleary will be announced as Penrith’s new coach - joining his playmaker son Nathan at the club that sacked him in 2015 - as early as Monday, after the Tigers granted him a release from the final two years of his contract.
And while internally the joint-venture are ecstatic at securing Maguire, Pascoe conceded fans had a right to be frustrated at Cleary.
“Absolutely,” Pascoe told AAP when asked if fans had a right to be annoyed.
"There was a long-term commitment from the club to him and from him to the club. We certainly looked for stability when we made that appointment.
"That was our focus 18 months ago when we appointed Ivan and to be fair there are still two years left on his contract, so I think they’ve got every right.
“Fans are passionate, they buy into messaging that is out there and fans buy into directions that clubs are taking and a big part of that is the coach. So yeah, absolutely.”
In Maguire, the Tigers have got a 2014 premiership-winner with South Sydney who has also won a title with Wigan in the English Super League.
Negotiations between the Tigers and Panthers for Cleary’s release are believed to have wrapped up on Friday afternoon, with a payout rumoured to have been part of discussions.
Pascoe was coy on that.
“We’re a club that holds ourselves in a professional manner and that commercial discussion will remain behind closed doors,” he said.
"But our focus was to get a favourable outcome for the club both with the hiring of our new coach with credentials, but also get a favourable outcome for the club with the terms of the release of Ivan and that certainly we have got."
Maguire’s appointment marks the first time the Tigers have had a premiership winner join them as coach since Tim Sheens in 2003.
Seven-time premiership winner Wayne Bennett was another potential candidate before agreeing to replace Anthony Seibold at South Sydney.
“The club was on a real path of stability and real growth among many areas. And to be fair Ivan had done a really good job contributing to that,” Pascoe said.
"The most pleasing aspect of where we are at today is through this period there has been a significant amount of candidates through their management or themselves reach out and show genuine interest in the club.
“And I’m pretty confident three or four years ago that wouldn’t have been the case.”