Panthers offer long-term deal to Ivan Cleary to leave Wests Tigers
Penrith have offered a four-year deal to Ivan Cleary that could force the Wests Tigers to search for their fifth coach in eight years.
NRL.com can reveal the Panthers have verbally offered a deal to Ivan to return to the club next season until at least the end of 2022, a move that would likely trigger a multi-year extension for son Nathan at the Panthers.
Wests Tigers chairwoman Marina Go told NRL.com that if Cleary asked the club for a release he would not be granted one and CEO Justin Pascoe said his club would not be "pushed aside or bullied or railroaded by anyone".
"We engaged in a contract nearly 18 months ago now under good faith and we expect that contract uploads and continues on," Pascoe said in an update for Tigers members on Tuesday night.
"I'm bitterly disappointed that a rival club has decided that it's appropriate practice to try and poach a coach with two-and-a-half years left on his contract.
"We're not going to let anyone come in and just poach our Coach without a fight and we're going to fight tooth and nail to keep Ivan. We're not going to release him."
The Wests Tigers have been growing increasingly confident of luring Nathan to the club under Ivan from 2020, however the balance of power has taken a complete turn with the Panthers on the verge of securing a monumental dual coup in reuniting father and son.
Ivan informed Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe of discussions with Penrith on Monday night, immediately notifying the board of his conversation with the coach.
Ivan informed the club that he had met with a high-ranking Panthers official two weeks ago, believed to be Panthers chairman Dave O'Neill, about the prospect of taking up a deal with Penrith, where he was sacked at the end of 2015.
It's understood O'Neill has a very close relationship with Ivan from their time together at the Panthers and has been instrumental in orchestrating the move to lure him back.
The news caught the Tigers off-guard and has cast a huge cloud over whether he will see out the final two years of his deal despite Go reiterating the club's desire for Ivan to remain at the helm until at least 2020.
"It is my view that Ivan will be with the Wests Tigers as head coach for at least another two years as he has a contract with us," Go told NRL.com on Monday night.
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The tug-of-war over the Cleary family could result in Ivan asking for a release from the final two years of his deal with the Tigers in the next 48 hours.
Ivan's potential return would also result in Phil Gould, who told Ivan his services would no longer be required three years ago, taking on lighter duties with the club's football operations and return to overseeing the club's program.
It's believed Gould only took a more hands-on approach in 2018 because of the concerns over the way Griffin was running things.
"The Ivan decision I made was in his best interests and my best interests," Gould said on Tuesday morning.
"I believed I was right at the time and that's why the decision was made."