Wests Tigers halfback Benji Marshall wants Ivan Cleary to remain at the club but insists the future is bright even if 2018 proves to be Cleary's final year at concord.
On Tuesday Cleary sat his players down to explain his views on the coaching opportunity that has arisen at Penrith following the sacking of Anthony Griffin. Marshall said the side will support him in whichever decision he makes.
"Whether Ivan stays or not the club's bigger than everyone," Marshall said.
"I am proud of the club because when I did leave I felt like the club wasn't in a strong position where now I feel like the guys at the top, the leadership with Justin and the board have really got a strong stance on what they believe in and are sticking strong together.
"[Cleary] has always been open, honest and transparent with the way he approaches coaching and it was the same in the meeting which everyone appreciated.
"That's the unique situation - it's different where it's not money or anything like that, it's that he wants to coach his son - he has expressed that.
"So whether he stays or goes the club will go on and they will remain strong but I hope he stays."
Since Cleary came on board midway through the 2017 season, he has signed the likes of Tui Lolohea, Ben Matulino, Russell Packer, Josh Reynolds, Corey Thompson, Robbie Rochow, Pita Godinet and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, while also bringing Marshall and Robbie Farah back to the club.
Benji eyes top 8
Marshall said if it wasn't for Cleary he would never have got the opportunity to come back to where it all began.
"I feel like he's done such a great job in bringing such a great club back to where it should be," Marshall said
"For myself, he's brought me back here and given me my opportunity to come back to where I thought would never be possible so that's why I want him to stay.
"The amount of leaders that he brought to the club, guys like Russell Packer, Ben Matulino and Robbie Farah.
"The leadership factor has really played a part because I feel like there was a lot of young guys here who were just finding their way through first-grade and maybe felt like maybe not making the semi finals and losing was starting to become a bit of a habit, but bring these guys in who all love winning helped change that a bit."
With the side unable to escape all the talk around whether Cleary will go or stay, Marshall said it's been his job as one of the leaders to make sure when the players are at training that their one and only focus is on working their way back to getting a shot at finals.
"I feel like because it's on TV all day every day and on every show that's all they've been talking about, it's hard to get away from it," Marshall said.
"My job as a leader and one of our captains is every time we come back to training is that that's outside and we have a focus on winning because if we don't win this week it's see you later.
"People have talked about it, I suppose part of the process is that there's going to be whispers going around of 'I wonder what's going to happen', that's normal.
"But the one thing that I stress to the team is once we cross the line it's football - we have to do what we get paid to do.
"And today we trained the house down, I thought it was one of the best sessions we've had."
Wests Tigers players hopeful Cleary stays
GIO Stadium will host the make or break game for the Wests Tigers as they take on the Canberra Raiders on Sunday.
With the Cowboys defeating the Broncos 34-30 on Thursday night at 1300-Smiles Stadium, the Tigers can ensure they move to within one win of the top eight with a victory over the Raiders.
Marshall said despite the side's poor record against Canberra, he's adamant they are more than capable of coming away with the win.
"Brisbane lost last night which opened the door a little bit so that gives us a bit more confidence to hopefully sneak in there - if we win we're guaranteed to be closer," Marshall said.
"Our team hasn't had the best record the last few years against them, everyone knows that and the boys addressed that but you can change that record.
"They're (Canberra) on fire, I don't know how they lost week but they're so hard to stop.
"Their right edge is probably the most damaging in the competition so we're in for a big one but there's no reason we can't win."