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Wests Tigers’ CEO Justin Pascoe has declared the club will not be giving up coach Ivan Cleary to Penrith without a fight, slamming the Panthers for attempting to poach Cleary in the wake of Anthony Griffin’s sacking.

Cleary is under contract with the Tigers until the end of 2020, but the Panthers have tabled a four-year offer to bring the coach they axed at the end of 2015 back to the club, which would reunite him with his son and superstar halfback Nathan.

The below is a full transcript of a video interview with Pascoe, as published on Wests Tigers’ website:

Q. Justin, it has been a big 24 hours in NRL coaching circles. Can you give us an update where things are at with Westts Tigers and Ivan Cleary?

A. Sure. So Ivan Cleary came to me late yesterday [Monday] afternoon and informed me in a discussion that he had been approached by Penrith — that they were keen to get him to go out there and coach. We had a really open and frank discussion around that. Since then, we met with Ivan this morning and we were very adamant in that meeting that there is really no option other than to continue on as Head Coach of the Wests Tigers. Certainly, we engaged in a contract nearly 18 months ago now under good faith and we expect that contract uploads and continues on.

Q. So if Ivan does ask for a release, will the club grant that release?

A. No. As we expressed to Ivan this morning, the position of the club — and it’s a really strong position — is that the club is going to fight for this. Under no circumstances will we be granting Ivan Cleary a release. He has got a contract with this club until 2020, we’re building something special here and we want that to continue.

Q. Why wouldn’t the club grant him a release?

A. Because we’re not going to be pushed aside or bullied or railroaded by anyone. This club, and myself, have to make decisions that are in the best interests of the Wests Tigers and, first and foremost, our fans, our Members and our stakeholders. Giving our Head Coach to a rival club is not a decision that is in the best interest of the fans or stakeholders.

Q. It’s been an uncertain day for Wests Tigers Members and fans. Do you have a message for them?

A. I’m really disappointed that they’ve had to go through all the speculation. I’m bitterly disappointed that a rival club has decided that it’s appropriate practice to try and poach a coach with two-and-a-half years left on his contract. My message is very simple: Ivan has been a terrific coach, he has shown great character in what we’re trying to build here and we are going to fight tooth and nail. This is a really strong, proud club with a lot of rich history and it’s a very different club than what it was previously. We’re not going to let anyone come in and just poach our Coach without a fight and we’re going to fight tooth and nail to keep Ivan. We’re not going to release him. The club is a really proud club, as I said, and we’re in a strong position to fight this all the way.


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