Cleary will be back in the NRL: Gould

Penrith supremo Phil Gould believes Ivan Cleary will coach for another decade in the NRL despite his axing by the Panthers.

Cleary was sensationally dumped by the Panthers on Monday with one year remaining on his contract.

Gould unveiled Griffin as the Panthers’ new mentor on Wednesday on a three-year deal.

Cleary joined the struggling Panthers in 2012 after leading the Warriors to the 2011 grand final.

He did well to revive the club as a premiership force leading them to a preliminary final in 2014.

However this year the Panthers only just avoided the wooden spoon courtesy of a final-round win over last-placed Newcastle.

Cleary spent two years as Sydney Roosters reserve grade coach before spending six years with the Warriors and four with the Panthers and was in need of a break, according to Gould.

“Twelve years of unbroken service has been an outstanding effort from Ivan, I am quite sure he is only halfway through his career at this time,” Gould said.

“Ivan is a very proud and competitive person and while he won’t admit to needing a break at this time I felt it was the right time for him to take a step back and get a breath of fresh air and get ready for the next part of his career.”

Gould made the decision to sack Cleary, a shock move supported by Panthers powerbrokers.

The former NSW State of Origin coach said he understood he was now under pressure to help make Griffin’s appointment work.

“It was extremely difficult the Ivan Cleary decision and it’s my decision, I made that call, I’ll stand by it and I’ll be accountable for it,” Gould said.

“With all my experience, all my heart and all my gut I believe it was the right thing for Ivan and for us at this time.

“We’ve been mates for 20 years and it’s not an easy thing to do. I believe this club needed a new direction and I believe Ivan needed a spell.

“We wanted to act swiftly and get it done properly and I think we have handled this whole situation with great integrity.”

Cleary has previously been linked to a return to the Warriors and the Auckland-based franchise’s current coach Andrew McFadden will want to earn some early season wins in 2016 to ensure that speculation doesn’t increase.

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