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Why Gould's time at Penrith was up

Phil Gould didn’t just run Penrith, he was Penrith. Nothing happened at the foot of the mountains without his knowledge, support or approval.

That’s just how it was. And you could argue rightfully so, given that without him the club may cease to exist.

For years, almost eight to be exact, no one challenged him.

Then, last August, Panthers chairman Dave O’Neill told Gus ‘thanks, but no thanks’ when he made an approach to Wayne Bennett.

While Gould never came to the board with a formal offer, the fact the club chose to overlook a handshake agreement with Bennett to coach the club was the first sign that Gus' influence may be waning.

Penrith will forever be grateful for Gould saving them from the brink of extinction. It’s why they gave him full autonomy over the club.

But there have been a number of decisions throughout his tenure that in recent months have left the club hierarchy questioning if his methods were still required.

Should he have sacked Ivan Cleary in 2015? And why did he replace him with Anthony Griffin based on the advice of Darren Lockyer and Paul White?

Gould set to stand down at Panthers

Why didn’t he suspect Matt Moylan would struggle with the captaincy? Why did he invest in Moylan and Bryce Cartwright with five-year deals?

Should he have extended Griffin’s tenure for a further two seasons when there was no fear of losing him to a rival club, knowing some of the players didn’t get along with him?

Gould is one of the greatest rugby league minds to ever be involved in the game. But he also divides opinions.

Penrith began to feel it had a target on its back, and while ever he was around it would remain. Losses were no longer just two points missed. While Gould remained, the club felt that every loss would be met with accusations of instability.

As much as they tried, Gould and the return of Ivan Cleary was always going to be difficult.

Cleary demanded Gould be sidelined as one of the prerequisites for his return, with the club restructuring its football department to ensure the coach no longer reported to the general manager.

The players noticed a change. The most influential voice at the club had all but been muzzled. 

The players themselves began to walk on egg shells, unsure of how to handle the changing of the guard as things began to become awkward.

So on Tuesday morning, after a two-hour meeting between O’Neill, Gould and chief executive Brian Fletcher, an agreement was reached.

In the same week that has Bennett’s Rabbitohs up against Cleary’s Panthers, Gould's departure was decided.

Out of respect for everything he has done for the club, Penrith didn’t want to push him.

His job has become redundant. That’s the message the club was spreading on Tuesday afternoon.

"We met this morning, myself, [Penrith chairman] Dave O'Neill and Gus," chief executive Brian Fletcher told

”We spoke about his role and asked what he thought of it going forward. He came back and said 'my job has become redundant'. He recognises that with Ivan here, the right structures are in place.

"He asked me to take it to the board and I will be doing that [on Wednesday]. You have to remember his intention was always to make his job redundant at some point.”

That some point was always meant to be a premiership, not a 2-4 start to the year.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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