Panthers coach Ivan Cleary lays the boot into NRL battlers in f-bomb riddled end of season speech for the ages

Before Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary etched his name in rugby league folklore he was on the scrapheap as a coach and fighting to resurrect his career with perennial battlers Wests Tigers.


Now, at the end of season awards following the historic three-peat of grand final wins, Cleary has opened up on his return to the Panthers in an hilarious 20-minute speech that had the audience in stitches.




Cleary coached the Panthers in his first stint from 2012-2015 before being sacked by Phil Gould and the board, released into the rugby league wilderness.



He was eventually picked up by the Tigers where he famously demanded players ‘get on the bus’ and took them to the edge of the NRL finals in 2018.



However Cleary has now revealed that he was plotting his own exit even as he demanded players buy in at the battling Tigers.



Cleary gave a 20 minute speech for the ages at the Penrith Panthers end of season awards night


The three-time grand final winning coach admitted that he couldn’t wait to return to the Panthers after a short stint at Wests Tigers


Former Panthers chairman Dave O’Neill had been trying to court Cleary throughout 2018 and the coach revealed what happened when they finally met for coffee.


‘He just looked me straight in the eye and said ‘mate, do you want to come back?’ Cleary said.


‘I said ‘hey?’


‘He said ‘do you want to come back and coach the Panthers?’


‘And I was just like, ‘f**k yeah’.’


‘I went home and told (wife) Bec and she said ‘What?!’.


His admission had the crowd roaring in approval and several have lined up to sink the boot into Wests as well.


‘How bad must the environment have been at Wests Tigers that Ivan actually paid them a get out fee just to get away from the joint?’ one asked.


‘Ivan could not wait to come home and look how it has turned out,’ posted another.





‘Really Ivan you treated the players, members and fans at West Tigers like we are nothing,’ one posted.


‘You got paid big money and when you signed a new contract you ran.’



There was always a sense of unfinished business at Penrith and Cleary spoke of how the community culture was fractured at the time.


‘There was so much potential at the club, they made the finals three years in a rowm’


‘There was lots of success in the lower grades and lots of good kids playing there.


‘Like Yeoy ([saah Yeo], Nat [Nathan Cleary], Dly [Dylan Edwards], Romy [Jarome Luai] had debuted… the core of the team.’


‘In those days, the community liked their team but it didn’t feel like they loved it.


‘There weren’t a lot of people wearing Panthers kits around the suburbs. There were a lot of Parramatta fans, there are still too many around here today.


‘You don’t see too many jerseys thankfully. There’s a lot of Souths fans, people that moved out here… I thought there was a real opportunity here.’




‘We went into the Grand Final that year and thought ‘f**k, no one can beat us’,’ he recalled.


‘As it turned out, the Melbourne Storm kicked our arse that night.


‘But they taught us a lesson that night.


‘They taught us a lesson in what it takes to win big games.’




The lessons from the 2020 grand final came in good stead for the Panthers in their comeback against the Broncos

The lessons from that grand final paved the way for the Panthers to find a way back against the Broncos in 2023 after falling into a 16-point hole in the second half.



‘What you didn’t see was the hours and hours and hours of practice,’ he said of that Brisbane comeback.


‘Not just physical practice about how they play, but mental practice, mental rehearsal.


‘When they’re down, understanding you’re going to have doubts in games.


‘I’ve never seen a team have to come back from that big a deficit and yet did not step one foot out of the way we play.


‘There was no like random chip and chases or offloads out their arse or anything like that.


‘Those players are f**king awesome. I just want everyone to celebrate them.’

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