Former Brisbane mentor Anthony Griffin has emerged as the likely replacement for sacked Penrith coach Ivan Cleary.
Cleary was sensationally dumped by the Panthers on Monday, with a year left to run on his contract with the NRL club.
Despite several seasons of struggles at Red Hill, Griffin was credited with helping to lay the platform for the Broncos’ surge to this year’s grand final under returning supercoach Wayne Bennett.
Griffin was moved aside at Brisbane at the end of the 2014 season for Bennett’s return.
The 49-year-old Griffin has previously been linked to the top job at Newcastle, won by Nathan Brown after Rick Stone’s mid-season dismissal.
Cleary was sacked following a meeting with executive general manager Phil Gould.
It was Gould who lured Cleary to the foot of the mountains with much fanfare ahead of the 2012 season, the year after he had led the New Zealand-based franchise to just their second grand final.
Cleary and Gould are said to have fallen out over the treatment of assistant coach Trent Barrett, who has taken over from Geoff Toovey at Manly.
Barrett was only confirmed as Manly’s 2016 coach late in July, but speculation of the move had bubbled away through rugby league circles for much of the season.
According to reports, when Cleary learned of Barrett’s move to Brookvale he frogmarched his assistant out of the Panthers’ Pepper Stadium base, leaving him to finish out the rest of the season on “gardening leave”.
In a statement announcing the shock move, Gould paid tribute to Cleary’s time at Penrith, the highlight of which was a preliminary final appearance in 2014.
However they only avoided the wooden spoon in 2015 courtesy of a final-round win over last-placed Newcastle.
“Ivan Cleary has done a tremendous job in his four years at the Panthers,” Gould said.
“He has laid the foundation for the future and we are enormously grateful for his contribution to the club.
“We wish Ivan, his wife Rebecca and his family all the very best for the future.”
Other possibilities for the Panthers head coaching role include former Wests Tigers clipboard holder Mick Potter, who also applied to head up the Knights.
Toovey could be another possibility, as could Penrith NSW Cup coach Garth Brennan.
Cleary has been linked to a move back to the Warriors to take over from Andrew McFadden.