Football cap adds to Ciraldo's appeal for Panthers
The NRL's new football department salary cap makes it more appealing for Penrith to hand Cameron Ciraldo the fulltime coaching reins after Anthony Griffin became the first coach removed on the eve of a finals series.
With Griffin having more than two years to run on his contract with the Panthers, the club will be required to absorb any payout to him in their $5.7 million football department salary cap.
Should the Panthers sign a new coach, such as Ivan Cleary, his salary would also be included in the football department cap, along with any staff he brings with him or makes redundant.
If Penrith exceed the cap, the club will be liable for a 37 per cent luxury tax on the amount they have overspent.
While the Panthers could afford the fine, the reduction of up to $1.5 million in football department spending would have a significant impact on the club's ability to compete in the Telstra Premiership.
However, that could be minimised with the appointment of the highly regarded Ciraldo, who has been in Penrith's coaching ranks since retiring from playing after the 2013 World Cup.
After steering the Panthers Under 20s team to the 2015 premiership and 2016 grand final, Ciraldo was promoted as an assistant to Griffin last season.
He also oversaw Italy's qualification for last year's World Cup and had charge of a team which included James Tedesco, Paul Vaughan and Nathan Brown during the tournament.
Penrith players are believed to have been keen for Ciraldo to replace Griffin, and he will have the chance to push his claims for the job during the upcoming finals series.
However, Panthers supremo Phil Gould prefers a coach with NRL experience and there is strong speculation that Cleary is the club's target, despite being contracted to the Tigers for the next two seasons.
Former South Sydney coach Michael Maguire, who recently took charge of New Zealand, has also been linked to the job,
Griffin is widely tipped to continue his coaching career in Super League, with the Leeds job among those currently vacant after the departure of Brian McDermott, who last season guided the Rhinos to their fourth premiership in his eight-year tenure.
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Griffin has enjoyed similar success at Penrith, with the club qualifying for the finals in each of his previous two seasons as Panthers coach and being on track to do so again this year.
Despite winning just two of their last eight matches, Penrith are in fifth position on the NRL ladder and six points clear of the ninth-placed Wests Tigers with just four matches remaining.
Rugby league statistician David Middleton was unaware of any club parting company with a coach whose team was on the cusp of the finals.
However, Middleton recounted how St George had sacked Norm Tipping after he coached the club to the first of their record 11 consecutive grand finals triumphs in 1956.
Inaugural Illawarra Steelers captain John Dorahy was sacked by Wigan after taking the club to the Challenge Cup and British championship double in his first season as coach in 1994.