Penrith supremo Phil Gould admits he’s one step closer to walking away from the NRL club after unveiling a rugby league facility he describes as the best in the country.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was the guest of honour at Penrith on Wednesday, officially opening the $22 million academy that is now the club’s new HQ.
“It’ll play a vital role in inspiring and developing the next generation of rugby league stars from across the region,” Turnbull said.
The state-of-the-art facility, located behind the Panthers leagues club, includes two training fields, two gymnasiums, plunge pools and a 61-seat auditorium.
It is the best sporting complex in the country, according to the well-travelled Gould.
“We went to all the clubs that I’ve been associated with – the Bulldogs, the Roosters, the Broncos and Gold Coast. We looked at AFL and our commercial teams went over to England and America,” Gould told AAP.
“(The Panthers board) said they wanted to be the best club in Australia, and this will be.”
Thanks to a further $24 million input from both state and federal governments, the training base is just the start of a 200-acre development that will house a new apartment complex and aged care facility.
Construction is also set to begin on another community sports centre a stone’s throw away, while plans are being drawn up for a new stadium to be built following the impending ratification of the NSW government’s larger stadia policy.
However Gould may well be out of office by then.
The former premiership-winning Penrith coach has now turned his attention to finding a new chief executive following the shock resignation of Warren Wilson a fortnight ago.
After that, he could very well step down from a club he saved from financial ruin five years ago.
“I’m currently searching for a really good commercial and strong CEO for the club. It really needs someone with some expertise to monetise this program and help it develop over time,” he said.
“When that’s done, the job I came here to do is done. Whether or not I’ve got a role into the future and the club wants to keep me involved, that’s up to them.
“Certainly in the role that I’ve played over the last five years, the aim has been to make that position redundant and we’re very close to getting to that point.”