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Ivan Cleary under fire as Panthers' 'lack of class and humility' blasted

Paul Kent has ripped into Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary and the culture at the club.

Ivan Cleary, pictured here alongside Penrith Panthers players.
Ivan Cleary and the Penrith Panthers have been taken to task by Paul Kent. Image: Getty/NRL

NRL 360 panellist Paul Kent has ripped into the Penrith Panthers over their "lack of class and humility", while describing Ivan Cleary's remark about Jaeman Salmon and Ricky Stuart a "mug's comment." Salmon was at the centre of headlines over the weekend when he screamed "weak-gutted dog" towards the crowd after scoring the final try for the Panthers in a 53-12 thrashing of the Canberra Raiders.

Salmon's comment was a reference to being labelled the same thing by Stuart last year after an incident on the field, which saw the Raiders coached fined $25,000 and banned for one game. Speaking after the match, Salmon said he'd directed his words at some spectators who had been sledging him, rather than Stuart himself, while Cleary described the fact that Salmon scored as "good karma".

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But Kent took exception to Cleary's response in a scathing rant on NRL 360 on Monday night, saying he believes it highlights a disrespectful culture at the club. “It was a mug’s comment, to be honest,” Kent said of Cleary's remark.

“I don’t mind Jaeman Salmon saying what he said, if you want to return serve when someone has a shot at you, go for your life. But don’t walk around kicking stones and giving the sad face and telling everyone how hurt and upset you are and have everyone give you a hug because of how unfair it is and live on the sympathy of that for months and then you’re back in town and when you’re up 53-12 and you fire back at them. It’s one or the other. That’s character.”

Kent said Cleary should have been able to recognise that Stuart was supposedly defending his family when he made the comments about Salmon last year. Stuart's son played junior football with Salmon.

Jaeman Salmon, pictured here screaming 'weak-gutted dog' after scoring for the Panthers against the Raiders.
Jaeman Salmon screamed 'weak-gutted dog' after scoring for the Panthers against the Raiders. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

“As a coach, good on Ivan for standing by his players. As a father, who coaches his son ironically...but as a father, maybe he should have a little more understanding of where Ricky was coming from and just elected to say nothing,” Kent said.

“I have a problem with this Penrith team in that, as we’ve seen again, they just lack class. They win grand finals and rub their opponents noses in it. They give a big up yours to anybody that gives them any criticism. Don’t sit there and say how sad you are about it and then return serve and say the exact same thing six months later when you’ve got your tail up.”

Paul Kent blasts Panthers' 'lack of humility and class'

After fellow panellists Peter Badal and Phil Rothfield defended the Panthers, Kent went on the attack and highlighted a number of recent examples to make his point. “The issue is when they act like mugs, the club through their tacit approval, endorse it,” Kent said. “These players comes into your club as young men and part of the spiel to mum and dad when you’re trying to sign them up is what we’re going to do is teach your young boy to be a good young man.

“Parents hand their kids over to these clubs and they spend many of their development years there and the club has a big impact on the men they grow into. But they’re not looked after which results in things like the wedding last year (of Brain To'o) when Jarome Luai gets up and makes an absolute mug’s speech on this young woman’s greatest day of her life.

“Why wasn’t someone there saying let’s at least see your speech as part of the caretaking part of the club. They are not being educated to show any humility or class.”

The Panthers also came under fire last year for the manner in which they celebrated winning back-to-back premierships. Many labelled them 'disrespectful' for taking a number of swipes at the Parramatta Eels, who they beat 28-12.

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