Current Panthers coach Matthew Elliott now faces even more pressure, as the heat gets stepped up today with the Penrith board getting together to consider giving him the flick with 12 months still left on his coaching agreement with the club.
Sources suggest Elliott is virtually ‘gone’ and this talk only got hotter when it was learned that the board the Sunday meeting.
The Panthers NRL season in 2008 ended in similar circumstances to the year before, with Elliott and Penrith sent packing after a 34-16 defeat at the hands of the Sea Eagles – if sources prove true, this could have been Matt Elliotts last time with the clipboard in his hand at Penrith.
Elliott confirmed he could feel the noose tightening around his neck.
â€œI don’t think they’re gathering to discuss spreadsheets,” Elliott confirmed (in reference to the board meeting), which he only discovered on Friday.
â€œI think I can pretty well guess what the one and only topic of the agenda will be.” Elliott lamented
Elliott only heard of the news when contacted by his daughter; after she heard rumours on the Channel 9 NRL telecast that Elliott was on the way out and up coming Melbourne assistant Stephen Kearney could be slotted on for 2009 at Penrith.
Previously head coach of the Canberra Raiders; Elliott was naturally devastated with not just the talk but the way in that the clubs officials and board had not kept him up to date.
â€œI’m disappointed, disappointed in the way it’s transpired,” Elliott said.
â€œI’m disappointed that the accountability of where we’re at rests solely with me.
â€œI obviously take responsibility for all the things I’m responsible for, there’s no doubt about that and I’m really disappointed in how the season collapsed from five weeks ago.”
After signing a 36 month agreement with the Panthers, Elliott is less than 24 months in. As such, giving him the flick will be quite expensive for the Panthers club, even more concerning given that their Leagues club is currently running at a loss.
â€œI’ve got a three-year contract, I’ve got another year to serve, I’ll be here tomorrow morning,” Elliott said.
â€œI’m going to work mate, just like I did today.
â€œYou won’t find me in the shadows or hiding… I’ve got a debrief planned for next week, meetings planned with players so as far as I’m concerned I’m still at work.
â€œMy intention is to be here for another eight to ten years, whether that intention is reflected in other decision-makers well, I guess we’ll all know that pretty soon.”
After attempting to clean out long term players from the club over the past 18 months, Elliott admitted the changes caused problems within the squad – problems that have been more terminal than probably originally anticipated. Sources suggesting the aging Luke Priddis made things hard for the coach as he was occasionally kept out of starting sides and asked to look around. Priddis was rumored to be making waves for the current Panthers coach, even though the veteran hooker is set to join Wayne Bennett at the Dragons next year.
â€œLet’s not be naive about it,” he said Elliott.
â€œThere are some people that are leaving and quite often when people are leaving they’re disappointed about decisions that were made.
â€œI understand that and I think every coach goes through that.”
Panthers skipper Petero Civoniceva wasn’t buying to the debate, saying he knew little of the circumstances. Civoniceva getting mentioned recently in Panthers speculation; after the popular in-form prop was reportedly going into bat for Priddis, turning up the pressure on coach Elliott.
The usually quietly spoke Civoniceva was also reported to be ‘fed up’ with in-fighting at the club and had concerns about his own long term future there.
â€œWe’ll just wait and see,” Civoniceva said.