Nathan Cleary has backed Cameron Ciraldo's coaching ability to take his own game to the next level as he looks to re-visit contract talks as early as next week.
Cleary took Penrith's season-ending 21-20 loss to Cronulla particularly hard, feeling he had let his teammates down by missing a late field goal attempt in the Friday night thriller.
Once the Panthers 2018 post-mortem is wrapped up Cleary wants to have his future beyond the end of next season quickly sorted, with the young half wary of the endless speculation over he and father Ivan being a package deal.
Despite a strong rebuke from Wests Tigers officials and denials from Penrith hierarchy, influential figures among the latter still believe Cleary snr will be at the club as early as next season, allowing the Panthers to tie down Nathan with a multi-million dollar extension in the same fell swoop.
Ciraldo has filled the void admirably since Anthony Griffin's sacking, turning the Panthers around for their third straight week two finals foray, and has the backing of Penrith's squad for a full-time role, not least their NSW Origin halfback.
"I'd be happy with that, I think everyone respects him and he respects all the players and everyone really likes him as a coach," Cleary said of Ciraldo taking the gig for the long-term.
"I've always loved playing under Ciro. He's grown to me as a player and he helped me through the 20s, and now the last year or so while he's been in and around first grade.
"I've got a lot of my achievements down to him. He's been by my side since day one and always believed in me.
"He's taught me a lot of things along the way. I'm always grateful that he's always backed my ability."
Speaking after the semi-final loss, Ciraldo said with a year remaining on his current contract he will be at Penrith next year in one form or another, be it "coach, assistant coach, or water boy".
Having started his coaching career during Cleary's first stint at the Panthers, it's believed Ciraldo would be willing to return to an assistant role beneath him if Cleary were to take charge again out west.
Nathan, meanwhile, said he could commit his sought-after signature without necessarily knowing who his next coach would be.
That statement comes with a large grain of salt given he sits across the dinner table from the coach consistently linked with his current club, and still calling the shots at the Tigers, his most active suitor.
In any case, the 20-year-old wants his next deal finalised well before Christmas.
"I definitely don't want it to drag out," Cleary said.
"With dad just comes all speculation and there's a lot of rubbish that comes with it so if we can get it done as quickly as possible I'd be happy with that."
Asked if he would like Penrith's coaching situation confirmed so he can do the same, Cleary said: "That'd be nice, but I can't really rely on that, I've just got to focus on what I want to do and go from there.
"It is a big part. I suppose it will make my decision a bit easier but we'll just have to wait and see."