September 23, 2019

NRL: Ivan Cleary to coach the Penrith Panthers

Cleary is understood to be very happy with a five year deal at Penrith. He will also be happy he doesn't have to spend half his life flying above the Tasman Sea travelling to away games.

Ivan Cleary is to be announced as the new coach of the Penrith Panthers in the NRL today.

The New Zealand Warriors have called a press conference later today to make the announcement that their head coach is leaving after six seasons in charge.

It is well known that Penrith boss Phil Gould was keen on Cleary and the Warriors have decided to do a deal after initially being reluctant.

Cleary is under contract to the Warriors until the end of next season but the Auckland club’s management has refused to discuss extending his tenure after learning of the interest from Penrith.

Phil Gould last week told Panthers coach Matthew Elliott and his assistant Wayne Collins to finish up after the Panthers board had earlier this year decided not to renew Elliott’s contract.

Another assistant, Steve Georgallis, was installed as caretaker coach and many believed he was on trial to take over the role next season.

However, Gould’s preference is believed to be for an experienced coach to replace Elliott because his role as general manager of football gives him little time to take a hands-on role with a new coach.

Cleary is the longest-serving coach in Warriors’ history and Gould, who coached Cleary as a player at Sydney Roosters, has been a long-term admirer – once describing Cleary as “the sort of bloke you would let marry your daughter”.

It’s understood that while Cleary and football director John Hart remain close, relations between Cleary and some club management have soured somewhat since Cleary was not offered an extended contract after the club were alerted earlier this month to Penrith’s interest in him.

The Herald has been told that Cleary was offered a five-year deal with Penrith and while he initially pledged his loyalty to the Warriors, the uncertainty over his long-term future may have tipped the balance towards the Panthers.

It is thought that the Warriors won’t be ready to name a successor for Cleary, although the two front-running candidates remain his highly regarded assistant, Tony Iro, and the former Kiwis coach Brian McClennan, now working for the Auckland Rugby League but with a release clause in his contract.

Cleary, who played 186 first-grade games for Manly, Norths, the Roosters and the Warriors, began his coaching career in the lower grades at the Roosters before being appointed as assistant to Warriors coach Tony Kemp in 2005.

He replaced Kemp as head coach a year later and has been in charge since, with his best season being 2008 when the Warriors got within one game of the NRL grand final.