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Gould coy on Cleary, Bennett Penrith link

Gould coy on Cleary, Bennett Penrith link.jpg

Penrith Panthers general manager Phil Gould speaks to the media during a press conference in Sydney, Tuesday, August 7, 2018. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

Ivan Cleary and Wayne Bennett are Penrith's top targets to take over from sacked coach Anthony Griffin.

NRL.com reported that the Tigers had offered Cleary a four-year deal in an attempt to prise him away from the Wests Tigers.

It's understood Panthers officials have spoken to Tigers mentor Cleary - the father of Penrith halfback Nathan - in the past few weeks.

The Panthers are also interested in veteran super-coach Bennett, believing he is a man who could deliver their talented squad an NRL title.

Penrith general manager Phil Gould said the club had received numerous applications since parting with Griffin on Monday.

Assistant Cameron Ciraldo has taken over as caretaker coach for the rest of the season, however, he is just 33 and considered too young for the job on a full-time basis.

"We've already had 12 applications come in overnight from people within the game," Gould said.

"Other assistant coaches and even some head coaches from other clubs.

"I think we'd be a very popular choice for a coach who's looking for a strong club and a good roster and great facilities."

Gould said the club had a clear preferred option.

That person is believed to be Cleary, despite the fact he is on contract with the Tigers until the end of 2020.

Gould refused to answer questions linking Cleary with a return to the club three years after he was sacked, but securing him would also ensure they retain gun halfback Nathan Cleary.

Both Cleary and his son Nathan have recently stated their desire to work with each other at some point during their careers.

The NSW Origin halfback can begin talking to rival clubs from November 1 and keeping him at the foot of the mountains will be the club's No.1 priority.

"We have a preferred coach at this stage but that's not to say that's the one we'll end up with," Gould said.

It's understood the Panthers are interested in Bennett, whose future at Brisbane is clouded.

Bennett is contracted at the Broncos until the end of next year and the club has failed to land big-name coaches Paul Green and Craig Bellamy in recent months.

Seven-time premiership winner Bennett, 68, has unsuccessfully sought an extension and is said to be considering an early exit and Gould himself last week said Bennett's position at the Broncos in 2019 was untenable.

Bennett and Gould are said to have a strained relationship but Panthers CEO Brian Fletcher on Tuesday said there was no reason the pair couldn't work together.

Asked about working alongside Bennett, Gould said: "That'd be fun wouldn't it? Crikey. Could he work with me?

"I'm not talking about individuals, that's ridiculous.

"I don't know what Wayne is doing at the Broncos at the moment. I don't know what the Broncos are doing either.

"It's got nothing to do with us."

© AAP 2018

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