Ciraldo's progression on the backburner
Two-time Holden Cup Coach of the Year Cameron Ciraldo isn't thinking about his upcoming progression to the NRL coaching ranks with his young Panthers outfit looking to win back-to-back under-20s premierships.
The former 94-game NRL journeyman retired at the end of the 2013 season and has made a quick progression through the coaching ranks ever since.
From 2017, Ciraldo will act as one of Panthers first grade mentor Anthony Griffin's assistant coaches.
"I haven't thought much about it yet. I'm just looking forward to helping these boys finish off the year the same way they played in the regular season," Ciraldo told NRL.com.
"I'm really excited about the move moving forward but obviously the NRL team has a job to do over the next month as do I with the NYC team.
"It's a really big achievement but I'm very realistic that I could be doing the same job with a different group of players and not be getting the same result," Ciraldo added of his second Coach of the Year award.
"This accolade is definitely on the back of the players that I've had in my squad over the past two years."
Ciraldo was joined by Panthers quartet Robert Jennings, Oliver Clark, Dylan Edwards and Tyrone May in the Team of the Year following their minor premiership win.
However he will be without half of them in Penrith's qualifying final against the Sharks with Jennings out for the season with a shoulder injury and May battling an ongoing ankle complaint.
The Panthers have had a difficult run with injuries this season, not to mention the loss of star halfback Nathan Cleary midway through the year to Griffin's NRL side.
A benefit of the Panthers' 34-18 grand final win over Manly last season was that most players were still eligible for the Holden Cup in 2016.
However only Edwards, Clark, hooker Soni Luke and forwards Reed Izzard, Kaide Ellis and Thomson Tuigimala remain from the premiership-winning team.
With back-rower James Fisher-Harris also playing in the NRL and halfback Jahrome Luai out for the year due to suspension, Ciraldo said the Panthers basically had to start from scratch once their early-season 14-game unbeaten run was ended by the Sharks.
"This group has had some adversity to get through. The strength of our team has always been the depth in our squad so anyone who has come into the team has always done a great job," Ciraldo said.
"We're hoping that can continue. The boys took a few steps forward over the past fortnight so we're hoping we can get the job done against a really good Cronulla side.
"We have a couple of halves there (Dean Blore and Wayde Egan) who have come in and done a really good job these past couple of weeks. The rest of the boys have to step up and take a bit more onus on themselves so that's been a positive."
Last year's grand final Man of the Match, hooker Soni Luke, may have missed most of the season with a serious shoulder injury but Ciraldo was buoyed to have him back in recent weeks.
"He's a great team player and a really great person to have around the group," Ciraldo said.
"It's good to have him back because he worked so hard in his rehab to get to where he is now."