Ivan Cleary has vowed to honour his contract with Wests Tigers and rejected suggestions he had done a secret deal to return to Penrith.
Cleary fronted the media on Saturday morning at Campbelltown Leagues Club, the first time he has spoken publicly following revelations he was the Panthers preference to replace sacked coach Anthony Griffin.
The Tigers mentor confirmed he had met with Penrith chairman David ONeill, but said he had no idea they would be discussing potential return to the foot of the mountains.
Cleary is one of the most composed clipboard holders in the NRL, but was visibly nervous when reading a statement he prepared. He declined to take any other questions during an awkward pre-game press conference that lasted just five minutes.
“Ive been very disappointed with the amount of misinformation surrounding myself and my family this week,” Cleary read from his prepared statement.
“I intend to make this statement to clarify my position and following this statement I will not be taking any questions further on this matter.
“When I was approached by the Panthers, initially I had no idea it was about coaching their club.
“I was told at that meeting that the club was looking at the future of the head coaching position. I advised the Panthers of my ongoing contract status with Wests Tigers.
I subsequently advised the chair and the CEO of Wests Tigers of the discussions I had had with the Panthers.
“I was as surprised as anyone at the announcement of the dismissal of Anthony Griffin.
“I have not received any offer from the Panthers, nor have I asked the Wests Tigers for a release.
“I am enjoying my contribution at this club. The club is growing nicely, everyone associated with this club should be proud of the direction its heading in. Im privileged to be part of this journey and respect the contract I have with Wests Tigers.
“I respect all of the people and supporters involved with this club and intend to honour this contract.
“It is common knowledge that my son, Nathan and I, have acknowledged our desire to work together at some time. That remains the case.
“Today Im absolutely focused on our match against the Canberra Raiders and am happy to take questions around that game.”
Asked to confirm he would be staying put – Cleary is contracted until the end of 2020 – he replied: “Im honouring my contract.”