Ivan Cleary smacks down Panthers criticism over grand final furore

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary (pictured far left) hugging Nathan Cleary and (pictured right) Penrith celebrating the NRL grand final.
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary (pictured far left) has backed his team after criticism over some comments from players during the grand final celebrations. (Getty Images)

Coach Ivan Cleary has backed his players after the group came under criticism for some 'tasteless' comments during the Panthers' premiership celebrations.

The Panthers celebrations kick-started after cementing back-to-back premierships in defeating the Parramatta Eels 28-12 on the weekend.

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The Panthers showed off the Provan-Summons trophy to around 3,000 adoring fans who turned up to the club's home ground on Monday morning in the wake of their grand final triumph.

However, a number of players have left a sour taste in the mouths of fans and commentators with their actions during the celebrations.

A number of players could be seen joining in a chant of 'we hate Parra' that was started by fans, which kicked off after James Fisher-Harris declared the Eels 'are our sons'.

Jarome Luai had earlier told the Eels 'you can call us daddy' in reference to the western Sydney rivalry, and Fisher-Harris continued that trend on Monday.

And Api Koroisau took a dig at the Wests Tigers, his new club for 2023, before bursting out laughing.

A number of club legends, including Greg Alexander, have defended the Panthers and claimed the criticism has been over-the-top.

Now, coach Cleary has backed his players for enjoying the moment.

"Part of it's just because we are winning," Cleary said of the criticism to Channel Nine.

"You know, our guys probably do things a little differently sometimes. They're letting their hair down a little bit and all of us can understand that if you maybe drink a little too much you might say some things.

"But I am not too worried about that.

"It may not be everyone's cup of tea. But you can't please everyone."

The comments from the Penrith Panthers players prompted former star Braith Anasta to hit out at the 'tasteless' behaviour.

“I love the fact that they’re having a good time and they’ve had a big night and having a drink, I’ve been there, it’s the best, you’re on top of the world,” Anasta said on NRL 360.

“But it was a bit tasteless and probably unnecessary. Just a couple of remarks there, probably unnecessary, but under the influence so cut them a bit of slack but probably not the best idea from Koroisau when he’s going there next year.”

Kent said the celebrations will take some shine off the Panthers' monumental achievements.

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When asked about the Panthers winning back-to-back titles, Koroisau said "we'll probably do the same thing at Tigers" before bursting out laughing.

Koroisau has been forced to leave the Panthers due to salary cap troubles and will link up with the Tigers for next season.

The comment certainly turned some heads in the NRL world and the Tigers have now responded.

Club Chairman Lee Hagipantelis and Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe contacted the Fiji international's manager, Giancarlo Lombardo, on Monday night to discuss the jibe.

"The matter has been dealt with and dealt with privately," Hagipantelis told SEN.

Ivan Cleary coach (pictured left) talks during the Penrith Panthers' NRL grand final celebrations.
Ivan Cleary coach (pictured left) has defended the Panthers over their celebrations. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Tigers officials claimed they are still looking forward to Koroisau's arrival and weren't concerned with the celebratory comment.

"As I understand it, Api is a thoroughly decent fellow and presents as such. I'm sure if he had his time again he might rethink those comments," Hagipantelis said.

"It was on the spur of the moment, emotions play a large part and perhaps some alcohol as well.

"We're not going to put a lot of stock into it and we're very keen on welcoming him to the club."

with AAP

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