Where to now for Gus and Panthers?
GUS Gould is rarely put under the microscope in his role as general manager of the Penrith Panthers.
He is in a position – so powerful that the CEO Brian Fletcher and the Panthers board report to him, not the other way around. What he says goes and what he decides happens.
Gus has coached two premierships, he’s been the Blues’ most successful State of Origin leader and carries enormous influence on the back of that record.
He joined the Panthers in 2011 with his infamous five-year plan but it’s now eight years.
On Friday, Penrith bowed out in the narrowest of losses to the Sharks. Gus’ decision to sack experienced coach Anthony Griffin is now rightfully being questioned.
Sending a 32-year-old rookie into finals football as the most inexperienced coach in the history of the game didn’t work out.
We’ll never know if Griffin would have done better.
We do, however, know the team was running fourth under his watch but finished up missing the all-important top four to get two cracks in the finals.
We’re talking about a coach (Griffin) who was considered good enough to earn a two-year contract extension only six months earlier. It cost Penrith $1 million to pay him out.
Three years earlier they paid out a similar amount to get rid of Ivan Cleary. Now they want him back.
This is managerial madness in any business and shows why the NRL was reluctant to hand out $13 million in annual grants to clubs that burn money like the Panthers do.
So where to now? Gus is contracted himself for three more seasons.
In his eight years he has done a fantastic job to build the $25 million player academy and throw millions of poker machine money into junior pathways.
Their grassroots structures are the envy of the NRL.
Yet at the same time there have been many, many questionable decisions made, two of which came back to haunt the Panthers on Friday night.
In the 31st minute, when former Panther Matt Moylan so beautifully timed a pass to put another former Panther Luke Lewis over for a magnificent try.
I immediately thought of Gus. What was he thinking? Why did he let local boy Lewis go in 2012.
This is the player who won the Clive Churchill Medal on grand final day, 2016.
A player who is not just a wonderful footballer but a fantastic role model.
He could and should have been the face of Gus’ academy.
And then Matt Moylan. Another local boy from the St Clair Comets. As Penrith as you can get.
There he was on Friday night destroying the team he came from. Why, Gus, why?