Tigers declare interest in Moylan
Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has given the strongest indication the club would chase Penrith captain Matt Moylan if he became available.
While the Panthers released a statement on Monday declaring Moylan intended to see out a four-year contract, speculation that the former Australian representative is unhappy at the club continues to mount.
The 25-year-old will sit out the finals series for personal reasons with Panthers general manager Phil Gould declaring Moylan needed time away from the game.
Former Panthers coach Cleary was asked about the possibility of reuniting with Moylan at Concord if the five-eighth seeks a release at the foot of the mountains.
"My understanding is he wants to stay and has never stated he wants to leave," Cleary said at the Wests Tigers presentation evening on Tuesday.
"But would I be interested? Yes. I rate him as a player and a person.
"[But] that hasn't happened yet and it's speculation."
Cleary handed Moylan his NRL debut during the 2013 season at Penrith and has watched his development closely.
"I really enjoyed coaching him and have kept a relationship with him since," Cleary said.
"I find him a terrific kid, great player, well-known local junior and [he] made an immediate impact.
"I'm not privy to all the information but hope it works out well for Matt because I've got a lot of time for him."
Cleary admitted replacing James Tedesco in the Wests Tigers No.1 jersey next season has proved a challenge, although the club picked up Warriors utility Tui Lolohea mid-season after missing out on signing Moylan's teammate Dylan Edwards before the June 30 cut-off.
"A guy like James Tedesco is impossible to replace, so we've used that money for about 15 other players," Cleary joked.
"That [fullback] role is up for grabs, Tui is in the box seat but there's probably another signing along the line of someone that could fill that role.
"There's a couple of spots still available but it's a weird situation with the new pathway system.
"A lot of players will be off contract and falling out of clubs, we'll sit back and see how it goes. We're not in a hurry."
It's been a rollercoaster season for Cleary, who took over a Wests Tigers club in tatters off the field in April.
The club sacked former coach Jason Taylor and when Cleary arrived the team's well-documented 'big four' – Tedesco, Aaron Woods, Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks – all had their futures up in the air.
Five months on and Cleary may have lost three of those four but has added stability and signed a host of talent for next season.
"The first month was radical in many ways, a lot work done in recruitment and the last couple of months it's been smoother sailing," he said.
"I thought our performances in the last 10 games were as good as we could hope for. We won the games we should have won and were competitive in the others.
"A lot of the younger guys got exposure to the NRL which they otherwise wouldn't have had so that will help them for next year.
"Our depth will be completely different."
The signings of Josh Reynolds, Russell Packer, Ben Matulino and Chris McQueen will add a new dimension to the side's attack.
Benji Marshall's return to the club and the signings Robbie Rochow, Taane Milne, Mahe Fonua and Corey Thompson will add further depth to a promising squad for 2018.
"I feel like we're ahead of where I thought we would be," Cleary said.
"We are going to reset with a bunch of things we will be changing, but I'll still coach the way I have been so far.
"There's a long way to go but the last couple of months has definitely helped."