Where to now for Gus and Panthers?

The Morning Bulletin - - NRL - MON­DAY BUZZ PHIL ROTHFIELD

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?

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