Whether you love him, hate him, or are simply entranced by the chameleon qualities of his hair, you cannot deny that Phil Gould knows his stuff.
Sure, he often comes across as his own biggest fan and as a commentator it’s usually not hard to tell which team he prefers. But the connections he holds and the common sense he isn’t afraid to enlighten us with makes him one of the greatest minds our game has to offer.
His contract extension at Penrith until 2017 can only be good for a club that is undoubtedly on the rise. The Panthers were the biggest over-achievers in 2013, challenging the contenders of the competition with a squad of solid, but not overly spectacular players.
In my opinion, Gould has been one of the major catalysts in turning around the fortunes of the club. From early on he recognized that the most successful clubs in the competition have a good culture amongst the staff and players. He wasn’t afraid to let go of quality players such as Michael Jennings to ensure that happened.
He fought hard for the services of Ivan Cleary, who I rate as one of the best coaches in the competition. Cleary is quietly spoken, but strikes me as the kind of man who holds the respect of both his players and peers. His approach is one that I believe resonates with Maori and Pacific Island players who are becoming increasingly influential in the competition and a key to Premiership success.
In hindsight I think the Warriors wouldn’t have let him go so easily, especially as we see some of club’s brightest young stars make their way to the foot of the mountains to join their former mentor. Hot talents such Elijah Taylor, Lewis Brown and Isaac John have joined Cleary at Penrith and are all smart acquisitions. Elijah Taylor in particular is a hard worker and future captain – something every club in a rebuilding stage values. Dean Whare is another young Kiwi recruit who is blossoming into something special.
But they’ve balanced out the young talent with experience. Brent Kite brings with him a tough and winning culture from the Sea Eagles, Peter Wallace is a representative halfback and Jamie Soward for all the scrutiny he gets has probably the best kicking game in the competition.
The only thing missing for Penrith is a superstar. A genuine marquee player who draws the crowds, puts bums on seats and gets the club to a financially stable position. The recent acquisition of Jamal Idris is a step in the right direction but still no Greg Inglis or Johnathan Thurston. Hopefully that star is one which comes from within the club.
Other then that, Penrith are looking good from where I’m sitting. A nicely balanced side with players in key positions such as James Segeyaro and Matt Moylan who are keen to make an impression. It’s only a matter of time before they go from a decent side to competition heavyweights.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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