Ciraldo sets Panthers for post-Griffin era

Matt Encarnacion

It's the clash between the Penrith assistant that wanted to get out against the one that did.

In week of high-drama at the Panthers, interim coach Cameron Ciraldo will oversee his first match since the controversial axing of Anthony Griffin in Saturday's match against Gold Coast.

It also comes a day after Penrith supremo Phil Gould revealed Ciraldo twice threatened to walk away from the club due to issues with Griffin over the past three years.

Ciraldo will come up against a former colleague in Titans coach Garth Brennan, who is in his first season on the sunshine strip since leaving the foot of the mountains last summer.

It is believed Brennan also had problems under Griffin, having been "demoted" from assistant to NSW Cup last year, where he led the Panthers to a reserve grade title.

Brennan was reluctant to discuss the topic ahead of the fixture at Cbus Super Stadium.

"That's in the past as far as I'm concerned," Brennan said on Friday.

"It was a club decision. 'Gus' (Gould) thought it would be best for me to go back and coach the NSW team. I always enjoyed having my own team and working with those young guys.

"It was a decision that was made by myself and the club in conjunction. It had nothing to do with my relationship with 'Hook' (Griffin)."

Ciraldo on Friday confirmed he was talked out of resigning on both occasions by Gould.

"At the time of me wanting to do that, I just thought it was in the best interests of myself and the club and Hook and my family, that I did that," he said.

"I got talked around twice and I'm glad I'm still here."

While talk of a Gould-Griffin rift had been speculated all year, his sacking came as a surprise given the Panthers are only out of the top four on points differential with a month to go.

No coach in the history of the league has been shown the door with his team finals-bound.

However Ciraldo, who only retired in 2013, shied away from any talk he could lead the Panthers to what would be one of the most storied premierships in recent memory.

"We've had our head down, just prepared for the Titans and we want to have an improved performance on what we've had the last couple of weeks," he said.

"If we do that, we can think ahead after that."

Panthers prop James Tamou is out for the clash, replaced by Jack Hetherington.

STATS THAT MATTER

* Only two of the eight coaches who took over mid-season since 2014 have won their first game in charge - Ivan Cleary (Wests Tigers) in 2017, and James Shepherd (Cronulla) in 2014.

* The Titans' 73.9 per cent completion rate is the worst in the league, as is the 9.1 tackles it takes for them to concede a try in their own 20-metre zone.

* The four times Penrith have come back from 14 points down so far this year is the most in the Origin era (1980-2018).