Penrith Panthers U20’s coach Cameron Ciraldo has praised his young team and coaching staff after he was named Holden Cup Coach of the Year.
Despite being in his rookie year as head coach, the 30-year-old former Newcastle and Penrith backrower guided his young troops to the top of the Holden Cup competition this season.
Ciraldo was recognised for his efforts during a presentation at Rugby League Central on Monday morning.
“It’s a big honour getting an award like that but it wasn’t something I set out to achieve, I’m just very lucky we’ve got a good squad here,” Ciraldo said.
“The boys in the team have worked very hard and I wouldn’t be getting any awards if it weren’t for them and my staff.”
Also named in the Holden Cup Team of the Year was Panthers captain Brent Naden, who’s enjoyed a stellar season in Penrith’s potent backline.
Ciraldo said the Indigenous kid from western NSW had come a long way since joining the club three years ago.
“I’ve known Brent since he was at SG Ball, and to see his development over those last three years has made me really proud,” he said.
“Last year was a big learning curve for him on and off the field. He was doing a few things he probably shouldn’t have been doing in regards to preparation, but this year he’s been outstanding and really led from the front in training.”
After defeating Manly 44-24 in last Saturday’s qualifying final at ANZ Stadium, the Panthers will now enjoy the weekend off and await the winner out of the Broncos and Warriors game this Saturday.
Unfortunately for Ciraldo he’ll be without halfback Nathan Cleary for the remainder of the finals after the youngster elected to fulfill his Australian Schoolboys dream.
In July Cleary was selected in the halves for the Australian Schoolboys but poor scheduling meant the two match series against New Zealand, to be played in Brisbane, coincided with the last two weeks of the Holden Cup finals.
– Nathan Taylor