Panthers General Manager Phil Gould has opened up about the club’s troubled start to the 2019 season.
Penrith are one from three to start the year and were embarrassed 32-2 by Melbourne in Bathurst on the weekend.
“They’re not in good form. They haven’t been in good form since the start of the season and they need to arrest that pretty quickly,” Gould told Channel Nine’s ‘100% Footy’.
“Ivan and his coaches are working really hard. Their preparations have been good, there’s nothing to explain the way they’ve played. Ivan is an outstanding coach and a great bloke… just football wise they can’t put it together.”
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) April 1, 2019
Gould also confirmed that he’d reached a handshake agreement with Wayne Bennett to join the Panthers from 2019.
He also denied any rift with coach Ivan Cleary.
“We’ve been mates for 24 years… Ivan and I are mates. Simple as that, that’s all there is,” he said.
Meanwhile, a number of NRL legends have been critical of Penrith’s opening to the season.
Premiership winner Glenn Lazarus believes Penrith lack enthusiasm and are struggling with motivation.
“Penrith just don’t look interested,” Lazarus told Macquarie Sports Radio.
“They’re not motivated at the moment, unfortunately.
“On paper, every week Penrith send out a pretty good team but between the ears, they just don’t seem to be at the ground they’re playing at.
“I just don’t think Penrith has any real enthusiasm about them at the moment and Ivan’s got a bit of a worry on his hands there.”
Jamie Soward, who won a premiership with the Dragons and was coached by Cleary at the Panthers, said the headlines surrounding the club won’t stop any time soon.
“This Penrith side is letting in an average of 22 points, the Nathan Cleary story will be talked about all year,” he told Macquarie Sports Radio.
“They’re going to be under pressure all year.”
Meanwhile, club legend Mark Geyer said it was important that Cleary and Gould were on the same page.
“I find it sad if they are still not on talking terms,” he said on Triple M this evening.
“Ivan and Gus need to break some bread and sort it out, because there’s going to be a mighty big cloud hanging over the Panthers’ 2019 premiership hopes.”
The Panthers play the Wests Tigers at Panthers Stadium on Friday night.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.