Before the excuses starts let me just say that I’m not a big fan of excuses. Excuses are for people that have failed and that want to come up with some sort of fantasy scenario where they didn’t fail and they were actually successful.
When you start making excuses in Rugby League, you basically are sitting back and watching other successful players or clubs win things while you are shrugging your shoulders and talking about how things should have been different.
When Phil Gould took over as the General Manager of the Penrith Panthers he had a huge job on his hands. To say the club was poorly run at all levels would be wildly understating the situation. The Panthers were a basketcase that had fallen to a point that saw their very survival questioned by the people trying to bring them back to the glory days.
Changes were made. Big changes. The type of changes that are painful, but necessary. There was talk of a longer term plan for the club and supporters were told that it wouldn’t be easy, but eventually things would turn around.
The club managed to headhunt then New Zealand Warriors coach Ivan Cleary. Cleary was a good coach, he had taken the Warriors to the 2011 NRL Grand Final. He was the longest serving coach in Warriors history and left the club with a winning record. You could see the immediate impact of Cleary’s departure from the Warriors and the way the club missed his leadership.
Cleary took over an average Panthers lineup and was happy to coach them through massive changes to their lineup. At no point did you ever get the sense that Ivan Cleary was getting close to having the lineup he wanted out there on the field. It always seemed like he was making do with what he had to work with, and to be fair, he did a very good job in that sense.
2015 was a terrible year for the Panthers. Injuries struck the club, as they did many other clubs, and the Panthers never really got going. It was a rotten season, one that slinked out the back door without anyone really paying attention.
Rumours soon started that Jamie Soward was told to look around for a new club. This was strange because the fact is that Soward is the Panthers most important player these days. When Soward isn’t on the field, or even if he just has a bad game, the Panthers lose.
Then yesterday, the bombshell. Ivan Cleary had been terminated.
The Penrith Panthers have gone through a lot of change over the last few years. Everything from the playing roster, the coaching staff, hell even the clubs logo and colours seems to change ever five minutes.
At some point, when the losses keep piling up, you have to question what the real problem is. Penrith has a massive junior base to draw upon and it doesn’t have a major sporting competitor anywhere near Penrith. There is a massive, almost fatal disconnect with the supporter base and any time questions are asked of the club by anyone the reaction is a strange one, a very personal one.
With Cleary gone, the lineup now completely turned over, and the results having been very poor overall, at some point whimsical talk of a time far off in the future where the Panthers won’t be a laughing stock just doesn’t cut it any more. At some point, EVERYONES job has to come under scrutiny is the wins fail to materialize.
The 2016 season is firmly on Phil Gould. If the Panthers fail, he needs to go. He has been in the job long enough, and had all the power to make any changes he thought necessary, that the teams record next season should lie at his feet and his alone.
With great power comes great responsibility. Phil Gould has got all the power he wanted at the Panthers…now it is time he takes direct responsibility for the results of the changes he has made.
In 2016, if the wins don’t start piling up, Gould should stand down.