Penrith supremo Phil Gould responded to a series of emailed questions from Daily Telegraph editor and long-time rival Buzz Rothfield, and he didn’t hold back.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, or have purposefully avoided the bile tweeted and spouted by Phil ‘Buzz’ Rothfield in some of his lesser moments, the sports editor at the Daily Telegraph isn’t a big fan of Phil Gould.
For his part, the man in charge of the Panthers doesn’t appear overly fond of Rothfield either, and the pair have often verbally jousted over the years.
While Gus has written for Rothfield and the Telegraph’s biggest rival, the Sydney Morning Herald, and continues to work as a prime on-air talent for Channel Nine while running the show form his office in the plush Academy facility off Mulgoa Road, he has never shied away from openly addressing issues as they arise.
When word began spreading that a 2019 contract offer from the Gold Coast Titans to Penrith utility Tyrone Peachey was actually an attempt to pry the star player away from Penrith before the end of his contract this season, many pundits and fans took to social media to question the ability of the Panthers to hold their talent.
A faithful son departs
When Bryce Cartwright, long a prodigal son at the club given his family ties to past players and one of the genuine godfathers of the club Merv Cartwright, ended his lifelong association with the club and came to a deal to terminate his contract and move to the Gold Coast, the knives came out a little sharper.
Were the Panthers in turmoil? Could the club continue to lose players and maintain their push for a premiership charge? Were they even genuine contenders as we’ve so often heard over the last 12 months or so? Had the players lost their respect for head coach Anthony Griffin, a long-divisive figure amongst the Penrith faithful?
To his credit, when emailed a handful of fairly targeted questions by Rothfield, Gould didn’t hold back and he was happy to respond and, hopefully, set a few things straight.
In words that should hopefully assuage the concerns of Penrith fans across the greater west, Gould took aim at the suggestion the playing roster had lost faith in Griffin as well as the perception that key talent is leaving the club at will.
Gould doubts Hook rumours
In his responses to Rothfield in Monday’s Daily Telegraph, Gould labeled the rumours surrounding Griffin as “ridiculous.”
“I’ve always wanted this club to have an experienced NRL head coach in charge of our development programs. It’s why I appointed Ivan Cleary instead of a rookie when I first arrived. Ivan did a wonderful job. It’s why I appointed Anthony Griffin to follow on.
Anthony Griffin has been at the Panthers for two years. We have played finals football in both seasons despite having one of the youngest and least experienced rosters in the NRL. During this time he has introduced a number of young players to the NRL level and these players will continue to grow and improve under his coaching.”
He also took umbrage with Rothfield’s suggestion that the former Broncos coach has lost his connection with the playing group according to “a lot of people.”
“What people? Bring me one person who says that and is prepared to put their name to it. You make ridiculous statements like that without any substance to back it up.”
Out the back door
His usual confident self, Gould didn’t shy away from Rothfield’s assertion that the club have leaked a high number of talented players since he arrived. Rothfield posed the question as to whether or not Penrith and Gould should, or indeed would have tried harder to keep those who have departed.
“Behind every player we release, there is a story and a reason. Every decision is carefully considered. During this time we have also developed players like Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Yeo, Corey Harawira-Naera, James Fisher-Harris, Sione Katoa, Nathan Cleary, Tyrone May, Moses Leota, Waqa Blake, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Dylan Edwards.
That compares favourably with any club in the NRL you’d like to name. These players, along with the likes of Cartwright and Moylan, got their opportunities because we released players. It helped advance their development and manage our salary cap.”
It’s unlikely to ease the simmering tensions between the two larger-than-life personalities, but Gould’s forthright, confident answers should allay any genuine concerns that the club is in serious trouble in terms of player retention moving forward.