Cleary breaks silence on Gould rumours
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has embraced the pressure of leading the NRL club following the shock exit of Panthers supremo Phil Gould this week.
Gould stunned the rugby league world when the club agreed his position as general manager of football had been made redundant.
The development comes five months after Cleary was reappointed coach despite Gould making overtures to lure Wayne Bennett to Penrith late last year. "I understand that I'm the leader of the club here and I have to … the results will always fall on my shoulders," Cleary said on Thursday.
"By nature I believe in collaboration and one thing I love about rugby league has been the team environment. But I know the buck will stop with me."
Cleary was at pains to deny suggestions of a power struggle between the pair, emanating from Gould's decision to sack him in 2015.
While it was Gould who pushed Anthony Griffin out last August, chairman Dave O'Neill came over the top by bringing Cleary back on a mammoth five-year deal.
"There's no falling out. Never has been. I've known Gus (Gould) for almost 25 years, he's been a huge part in my life and my career as a player and a coach," Cleary said.
He was also forced to deny that a disagreement over a recent recruitment decision was the catalyst for Gould's exit.
"There were no blow-ups. I've never had a blow-up with Gus in my life actually," Cleary said.
"I know it seems like a nice narrative but Gus has always said that this role he's in will come to an end at some point. He was always the one going to know that.
"For him to make that decision, I certainly respect that decision and feel indebted that it's now our job as a staff and me leading that staff, to take it from here."
Cleary said he was surprised Gould opted to leave with three-and-a-half years left of a five-year deal to continue a tenure that began in 2012.
"It did, and it didn't. I've got to be honest, it feels a bit surreal because he has been talking about it for a long time," he said.
"He's always said that it was going to happen one day, so you always think when might that happen. But it's happened and everyone's got to get on with life.
"And that's what we'll do."