Ivan Cleary addressed the Wests Tigers players on Wednesday morning for the first time since news broke of Penrith's plan to lure him back.
NRL.com understands he couldn't guarantee where he would be next season. He couldn't lie to his players, admitting he had a tough family decision to make.
The Tigers had scheduled a board meeting on Wednesday night, however later decider to scrap the meeting in favour of a phone hook up to discuss the future of the organisation. However, as it stands Cleary has not yet asked for a release.
Wests Tigers will fight to ensure that release is rejected if requested, however they are also prepared for things to escalate with the Panthers in the pursuit of Cleary's signature.
They have discussed putting a multimillion-dollar compensation fee on the coach and demanding player transfers from the Panthers if Cleary is to ask for a release from the final two years of his contract.
That's the last resort. Their intention is to deny any potential release request and expect Cleary to continue business as usual, such is their opinion of the coach.
Some would argue Cleary's position at the joint-venture club is almost untenable given the amount of consideration he has already given to leaving the club to link with his son Nathan at the Panthers.
But the reality is the Tigers have been thinking about extending his tenure, not ending it.
The problem is Ivan's unbreakable bond with his son, and rightly so, it has clouded the usually unflappable coach's judgement.
For months the Tigers have been gearing up to raid the Panthers for their halfback to join Luke Brooks, Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye in the spine. They wanted the Cleary combination.
It's not that Nathan doesn't want to join the Wests Tigers. Perhaps it's more accurate to suggest he just doesn't want to leave Penrith. It's where he played most of his junior footy. It's where he went to school. It's where all his friends play.
The Tigers know this isn't about anything but family. Ivan loves the Tigers. He's happy at the club.
But in the background, his son senses an opportunity for the family to be reunited and that is something Ivan just won't disregard.
The tug-of-war between the two clubs has escalated, with Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe declaring the club would not be bullied by their western Sydney rivals.
Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe adamant Cleary won't be released
The Tigers have vivid memories of the Panthers putting a $1 million transfer fee on Matt Moylan when they were in discussions with him about leaving Penrith last year.
Penrith have also been privately reminding people of all the coach and player contracts the Tigers have ended early in recent years, including that of their last coach, Jason Taylor.
Panthers general manager Phil Gould on Tuesday night retweeted a story from the Western Weekender in 2015 which highlighted Pascoe's resignation from the Panthers to take up the job as Tigers chief executive.
Pascoe didn't breach his contract and only had to provide four weeks' notice, but the Panthers haven't forgotten the way in which he left and the staff he took with him.
Tigers chairwoman Marina Go was on business duties in Melbourne when news of Penrith's interest in Cleary broke earlier in the week.
She has returned to Sydney and called for the phone hook up to discuss the predicament the club now finds itself in.
- Panthers offer long-term deal to Cleary to leave Tigers
- Gould: Why Penrith felt Griffin had to go
- NRL.com Players' Poll: The full results
Boyd's no news junkie
Canberra prop Shannon Boyd was asked about the demise of Anthony Griffin at a press conference in Canberra on Tuesday. He mumbled his way through but when the cameras stopped rolling he turned to the reporters and asked "who is Anthony Griffin?"
Cleary story revived from long ago
The third-most read sports story on The Sydney Morning Herald website on Wednesday morning was "Panthers confirm Ivan Cleary as new coach". The catch was it an article written in 2011 when the Panthers signed Cleary from the Warriors, by NRL.com reporter Brad Walter when he was working for Fairfax Media.
The article gained a second life after a cleverly misleading tweet was posted a couple of days ago by a Manly fan.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.