In-demand Panthers assistant Cameron Ciraldo is determined to concentrate on his role in keeping Penrith's title defence on track than the external noise around his potential coaching future.
With the Bulldogs, Warriors and Wests Tigers all in the market for a new coach after parting ways with their respective head coaches in the past month, Ciraldo has found himself heavily linked with a move away from the foot of the mountains.
The defensive coach deputised for head coach Ivan Cleary in Sunday's commanding win over the Knights, and reiterated his focus on the job at hand.
“This probably isn’t the forum to talk about what I’m doing or what I want to do,” Ciraldo told reporters after the game when asked about his future.
“I know there’s been a lot of speculation and it’s a credit to our club and our players that they don’t let that become a distraction.
“I don’t even think any of them have seen anything that’s been written or anything like that.
Match Highlights: Knights v Panthers
“Obviously it’s a little bit uncomfortable seeing your name in there all the time but it’s also very flattering, so my job at the moment is to keep doing the best I can for Penrith, and hopefully keep improving on our defence and all that stuff will come in due time.”
Asked if he felt he was ready to become a head coach, Ciraldo said: “That’s a big question.”
“Look, I’m happy doing what I’m doing – I’ve got some pretty special relationships at this place – but … I’ve also got to look at what’s [happening] in my career and what’s down the track too,” he added.
“At the moment, as I said, I’m focused on Penrith and today was a really exciting challenge for us and it was cool to be a part of. We’ll get to all that in due time, but I just wanted to enjoy coming up to Newcastle today and I definitely enjoyed how the boys played.”
Cleary stayed home in Sydney as he recovers from a second knee operation but was in regular communication with Ciraldo and the rest of the Penrith coaching staff before and during the game.
“It’s probably really hard for him,” Ciraldo said of his head coach.
“Like this is not normal for him to sit home and watch footy, but he’s handled it really well and hopefully he gets past this now and gets back to being around the team every day.”
Kikau monsters his way to the try line