Panthers legend Mark Geyer has strongly thrown his support behind Penrith’s pursuit of Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary.
After parting ways with Anthony Griffin on Monday afternoon, the Panthers have narrowed their coaching search down to one man – a man they already had under contract until they sensationally sacked him in 2015.
On Monday night, the Weekender exclusively revealed that Penrith bosses were on the verge of producing a major power play by bringing Ivan Cleary back to the club.
On Tuesday morning it was reported that Penrith were tabling Cleary a lucrative four-year deal to switch from Concord back to Penrith.
While Cleary would need to be granted a release from the remaining two years of his Tigers contract, his return to Penrith would also ensure the club re-signs halfback Nathan Cleary, who has expressed his desire to be coached by his father.
Speaking with the Weekender, 1991 premiership winner and Triple M personality Mark Geyer said he was excited by the prospect of welcoming Cleary back to Panthers.
“I would be excited by it, I think Ivan Cleary is a fantastic coach… it makes sense,” he said.
“It was always thought Nathan would go join his father at the Tigers but no one thought it would be the other way around.
“I feel for the Tigers because they are starting to build something really strong out there – a lot of players would’ve signed there because of Ivan Cleary. Sometimes blood is thicker than water.”
In the early 90s, Geyer was let go by the Panthers only to return five years later, to finish his career. Geyer said if Cleary does return to Penrith, he would need to patch up his differences with Panthers boss Phil Gould first.
“I remember it being very strange for me. I left Panthers in ordinary circumstances and the people who I left from – the Board and the management – were still there when I came back,” he said.
“I had to build a lot of bridges before I got that tick of approval and I would imagine there’s a big bridge that needs to be built between Ivan and Gus as well.
“That’s rugby league though, rugby league is that type of game where the things that happen should not surprise us even though they do.”
Penrith are desperate to keep Nathan Cleary, a winning Origin halfback and superstar of the game for the next decade. They know landing his father Ivan will go a long way in keeping him at the foot of the Mountains for many years to come.
“Penrith will do everything they can to keep Nathan and if that’s getting his dad back then so be it,” Geyer said.
“Players like Nathan don’t come around every year, they come around once in a generation.”
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.