Ivan Cleary doesn’t believe he owes any apologies but admits he’d like to change the way he left West Tigers.
The Penrith coach will face his former team for the first time since sensationally walking away to return to the Panthers when the two sides meet in a potentially fiery NRL clash on Friday night.
While he has previously spoken about the reasons for going back to the Panthers, Cleary on Thursday opened up for the first time about the ugly end at Concord. I’d like to change the way it happened but, under the circumstances, I was open and honest about it and did the best I could," Cleary said.
"The fact that we’ve been talking about it for six months, and it was dragged through the press for so long, that’d be the first thing I’d change.
“But sometimes you’ve just got to get with the circumstances as they were and it was just one of those situations.”
Cleary’s move to Penrith still leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of some Tigers supporters, who embraced his rebuild at the club when he took over in 2017.
But the 48-year-old insisted he doesn’t owe them an apology. Because as I said, I was open and honest to everyone who needed to know. Circumstances at the time didn’t allow me to speak publicly about it," Cleary said.
That was just more for the protection of everyone involved. I don’t really owe anyone an apology, I don’t think. But if they’re unhappy, I respect that as well."
Nor does he think his relationships with Tigers players have soured, even though a number, some of whom moved to the club to play under him, have spoken about their unhappiness at his exit.
“I think I’ve got a good relationship with those boys. That’s just normal. Rugby league people and the game moves on really quickly,” Cleary said.
“All my interactions with them since has been positive.”
It’s why, even though he doesn’t intend to, Cleary said he would have no reservations about walking into the opposition dressing room after the game on Friday.
“I’ve never been one for doing that too much. If you lose, you don’t really feel like it and if you win, you don’t want to gloat,” he said.
"But I’ve got no problem with anyone at the Tigers.
“I don’t think they have with me, either.”