Penrith Panthers caretaker coach Cameron Ciraldo is a chance to get the head coaching role.
Penrith Panthers caretaker coach Cameron Ciraldo is a chance to get the head coaching role.

Nathan Cleary backs Ciraldo as head coach

PENRITH star Nathan Cleary has lauded the influence caretaker coach Cameron Ciraldo, declaring he wouldn't have reached the lofty heights he has this NRL season without the mentor's support.

The upcoming summer is shaping as a significant one for Penrith halfback Cleary and Ciraldo as they seek to lock down their futures.

Cleary is off-contract at the end of next year but following the Panthers' finals exit at the hands of Cronulla on Friday night and has said he wants to sort out his future in the next few weeks.

While Ciraldo, who took on the coaching role for the final five weeks of the season following Anthony Griffin's sacking, is hoping to get the job full-time in 2019.

The pair go back several years to when Ciraldo mentored Cleary in the Panthers' under-20s side, and the playmaker was quick to praise the 33-year-old for guiding him to NRL stardom and the NSW State of Origin side.

"I've always loved playing under Ciro, he's turned me into the player I am today," Cleary said.

Nathan Cleary reacts after missing a field goal for the Panthers on Friday night. Picture: AAP
Nathan Cleary reacts after missing a field goal for the Panthers on Friday night. Picture: AAP

"He helped me massively through the 20s and now the last year when he's been in and around first-grade, a lot of my achievements I owe to him.

"He put faith in me, he's always been by my side from day one and always believed in me."

Cleary and his father, Wests Tigers coach Ivan, have expressed their desire to work with each other at some point and given their bond it's only natural for the 20-year-old to consider a move to Concord.

However, Cleary's relationship with Ciraldo could also tip the scales in the Panthers' favour as they seek to lock him in long-term.

Cleary, who turns 21 next month, said he wanted a swift resolution to his contract negotiations, mindful of avoiding speculation around his decision.

"I'll have a couple of good days with the boys now, do reviews and after that I'll get straight into talks and hopefully get it sorted out as quickly as possible," he said.

"I definitely don't want it to drag out and with that comes the speculation and there's a lot of rubbish that comes with it.

"If we can get it done as quickly as possibly I'll be happy with that."


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