Penrith executive general manager Phil Gould has hit back at sacked coach Anthony Griffin by revealing assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo tried to resign twice because he could not work under Griffin.
Gould told The Footy Show on Channel 9 on Thursday night that he thought Griffin had embarrassed himself and disrespected staff members at the Panthers the previous night in his interview on NRL 360 on Fox Sports.
Griffin had claimed Penrith's junior pathways program needed to be fixed and the NRL players were not in peak shape.
"That's disrespectful in the highest," Gould said. "I don't think he should have rushed into this interview."
Gould said the fifth-placed Panthers had no chance of winning the Telstra Premiership this year if Griffin remained at the helm.
"They wouldn't have won a premiership the way he was coaching. He's got us nowhere near a premiership at the moment," he said.
"I have utmost respect for Cameron Ciraldo, he's been a wonderful ally for Anthony Griffin. He has assisted that man loyally without question.
"He did come to me and resign twice for the way he was treated by the head coach. Twice. Twice I talked him into staying. I'll just put that out there so everyone knows there is very much two sides to this story."
When asked if Griffin had lost the support of the players, Gould said the issue came to a head after the recent heavy loss to Brisbane.
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"I interviewed them personally myself as a group after the debacle up in Brisbane where the coach had taken them on a three-day camp to the Gold Coast, completely cut out all the assistant staff and management and wanted to run the whole thing himself his way and they were beaten 50 points to 18 and the players came back very confused because when things were going good Cameron Ciraldo was giving a lot of the information, a lot of the work, Peter Wallace had joined him in that time and was doing a lot of the work, they were completely cut out the last five or six weeks and the players were confused about not being prepared well enough."
Gould said club officials and the players had protected Griffin from the media as word leaked out about the uncertainty over his future.
"A lot of my disagreement with Anthony was because I had to convince him we were trying to help him, not trying to hurt him. He felt he was being undermined which was the opposite of what we were trying to do. We were trying to help him. He had deficiencies," he said.
"Being brutally honest, he had deficiencies and as a club, we were trying to work through him. I run the club. I made some big decisions about Anthony Griffin. I employed him in the first place. I extended his contract.
"We've protected him in the media, stood up for him in the media, we've tried to help him in a football sense right across the board to help him through and I had full intentions of him seeing out his contract even though our own management has done reviews and said 'this is untenable he's got to go'. That's why he has embarrassed himself in this interview he's done out of emotion.
"Distaste of being suddenly sacked, I don't know. And I get it, I understand someone being emotional about that and I can forgive him for that, I can look past and say that's just him letting off steam but he's hurt a lot of people with that interview and embarrassed himself in front of people that know the truth so I'm not going to stand back and have our club and people denigrated like that."
Gould said he was prepared for criticism from the Wests Tigers and their fans about Penrith potentially luring Ivan Cleary back to the club.