Tigers CEO meets Maguire over 2019 coaching role

Wests Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe flew to Auckland to have a meeting with prospective coach Michael Maguire about the possibility of replacing Ivan Cleary at the club in 2019.

Pascoe was originally meant to fly direct to the United States on a club corporate tour, however NRL.com can reveal the Tigers chief executive made a detour through Auckland to catch up with the New Zealand Kiwis coach before last Saturday's Test against Australia.

As it stands, the Wests Tigers will only release Cleary to join Penrith immediately if they can land what they perceive to be an upgrade – which is why premiership-winning coach Wayne Bennett and Maguire are the only two candidates being considered.

However the decisions at Brisbane, who are interviewing candidates for the job from 2020, are likely to have major ramifications on who coaches the Tigers when they return for pre-season training next month.

Bennett, who also met up with Pascoe before flying to the United Kingdom with the English team, is still contracted to the Broncos next season.

The Tigers want him to join the club when he returns from international duty, however it's unlikely the Broncos will part ways with Bennett unless they have a coach locked in on a long-term deal starting from 2019.

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

NRL.com understands South Sydney coach Anthony Seibold, who has one more year to run on his deal at the Rabbitohs, is the frontrunner for the Brisbane job from 2020 but timing would mean the Tigers would miss out on Bennett unless the Rabbitohs were to release their coach.

Maguire, who is understood to be one of four coaches interviewed by the Broncos along with Kevin Walters, Jason Demetriou and Seibold, is ready to step straight into the role at the Tigers.

His efforts in helping New Zealand defeat Australia in the Trans-Tasman Test last week haven't gone unnoticed.

Pascoe returns from the United States next week, when it is expected several clubs will make key decisions regarding their coaching set-up as they prepare for the start of pre-season, with several clubs kicking off their training programs on November 1.

While many at the Tigers believe Cleary's position at the club in 2019 is now untenable, they won't let him leave unless it is in the best interests of the organisation and there is a coach ready to take over.

Bennett and Maguire are in the United Kingdom preparing the England and New Zealand teams respectively and wouldn't be in a position to start at the club until at least mid-November.