FOR a club in crisis, they sure played well.
It’s been the most asked question throughout the pre-season, who is coaching Penrith?
Phil Gould? Anthony Griffin?
Play that question out a little further and you could hear the whispers that Griffin was poised to get the axe despite the two-year contract extension he recently signed.
Ask the players and they’ll tell you Gould pops his head in and helps out but it’s Griffin pulling the strings.
Ask others around they club and they’ll say Gould is out on the field running training throughout stages of the year.
Speaking to Fox Sports News on Monday morning, Smith said there was good reason to distrust the “hottest rumour going around” and it goes well beyond a gritty Round 1 victory.
“The hottest rumour going around the pre-season was that Anthony Griffin was going to be replaced,” Smith said.
“Every person you spoke to at Penrith, you’d see the CEO Bryan Fletcher and he would say, ‘look it’s so frustrating because we’ve locked him in for two years, we’re really happy with him, the playing squad’s really happy with him and everything is moving in a positive direction but you keep having to expend energy putting out these spot fires that have started’.
“The best way to answer it is on the field and that’s what they did yesterday.”
Rugby league is a results driven business and to start the season, Griffin’s Panthers got the results.
The players did the talking on the field with a slick 24-14 win over Parramatta and it was a relaxed Griffin who responded to the rumours in the press conference afterwards.
So are they a club in crisis?
“Don’t read the newspapers,” Griffin said.
“… I don’t write that stuff, I don’t know what you’ll say now. The club is in a really good place.
“We were under a real avalanche there in the first half and showed a lot of character to hang in there. We are really confident in our guys and how fit they are and how tough they are in those situations and they showed that (against the Eels).”
Griffin is contracted to the Panthers for another two years after 2018.
If you believe the rumours, he won’t see out his deal.
Griffin is having none of it. Instead the Panthers mentor is focused on this season and blocking out the noise from the outside.
“To be honest, I don’t think much about it,” Griffin said.
“I’m not trying to bore you but I just get on with what I do and what we know works as a club. How it gets reported, I have no control over that. So I don’t make much of it.”
He mightn’t have control of the media but does he have control of the dressing room?
There’s no denying the Panthers have lost some big names recently.
The departure of local juniors Matt Moylan and Bryce Cartwright was tough for many fans to cop, although it did open the door for James Maloney to jump on board.
But still the talk around the dressing room continues to lurk in the background. It’s just not something Griffin feels the need to discuss.
“No. I’ve never felt the need to do that,” he said.
“I’ve never felt the need that the players needed to answer that question to be honest with you.”
Panthers captain Peter Wallace added; “like Hook said, it’s all outside noise.
“You guys are going to report what you’re going to report. It’s got nothing to do with us.
“We just worry about the four walls (of the dressing room) in there.”