Well that didn’t take long.
After the Panthers reportedly closed in on signing halfback Nathan Cleary on Monday, it was expected speculation on the future of his father, Ivan, would soon follow.
Now, SMH is reporting that the Panthers have indeed offered Cleary Senior their head coaching job – from 2021.
Cynically, this offer could be viewed as a path towards getting Ivan on board for next season, despite the Tigers having already refused his release. Should Ivan accept the Panthers’ offer, it would put the squeeze on the Tigers to either release him, or effectively squander two years of potential rebuild, by keeping a lame duck head coach with a foot out the door.
The question then becomes who has the leverage. With the Panthers having already sacked Anthony Griffin, the Tigers could bluff that they’re happy to stay the course with Cleary, in the hopes of getting compensation from Penrith.
Perhaps to that end then, the Panthers board today endorsed caretaker head coach Cameron Ciraldo to stay on in the job next year, according to nrl.com.
In effect, the Panthers have sent a message to the Tigers of ‘if you want to hamstring your club for two years, go for it; we’re happy with Ciraldo’.
If the Tigers believe the Panthers won’t pay them a cent, the decision over whether or not to release Cleary becomes purely about what’s best for the football team, and by that measure, few would agree that delaying the appointment of a new coach and new direction would be beneficial.
In that case, the Panthers could end up getting exactly what they wanted for nothing.
Of course, Cleary may yet reject the Panthers’ offer. But if he accepts it, this high-stakes game of poker has the potential to work out poorly for both sides of they’re not careful.