Anthony Griffin has been sensationally sacked as Penrith Panthers coach just four weeks out from the NRL finals.
The Panthers’ decision to part ways with Griffin, who took over as head coach in 2016 and has a winning percentage just under 60 per cent, comes as the club sits fifth on the ladder and only four points off top spot following consecutive wins.
Griffin, who was contracted through to the end of 2020, guided the Panthers to the semi-final stage in his first two seasons in charge but despite their status as a premiership contender this year there had been much speculation his position was in doubt.
The Panthers have been plagued by rumours of discord between Griffin and general manager Phil Gould, with Griffin said to have lost the playing group.
Gould has been critical of the Panthers’ performance in recent weeks but has repeatedly denied rumours Griffin was on the outer.
He also strenuously denied reports linking the club to Manly coach Trent Barrett and his assistant, John Cartwright.
The Panthers released a statement on Monday afternoon, outlining Griffin would not coach the club again this season.
“There has been much speculation and rumours about the club and head coach Anthony Griffin over the last few weeks,” Panthers Group chief executive Brian Fletcher said in the statement.
“After discussions with Anthony Griffin it is time to end that speculation. By mutual agreement, the club and Anthony have agreed to part ways, effective immediately.
“Anthony departs the club after much success, having taken the Panthers to the finals in the last two years and leaves the club on track for another finals appearance in 2018.
“We would like to thank Anthony for his service to Panthers and wish him well for the future.”
Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo is the leading contender to take charge on a caretaker basis.
Ciraldo is reportedly close to the Panthers’ star half-back Nathan Cleary, who is off contract at the end of next season and a target for the Wests Tigers, who are coached by his father Ivan.
Griffin was previously let go by the Brisbane Broncos in 2014 when the club welcomed back foundation coach Wayne Bennett.
In the four seasons he coached the Broncos he led them to three finals series, including making the preliminary final in 2011.