Anthony Griffin 'didn't rate' Cameron Ciraldo as ugly rift claims emerge

The two coaches will square off for the first time when the Dragons take on the Bulldogs on Sunday.

Anthony Griffin and Cameron Ciraldo, pictured here in the NRL.
Anthony Griffin and Cameron Ciraldo didn't see eye-to-eye during their time at Penrith. Image: Getty

A Penrith Panthers official has lifted the lid on the ugly rift that existed between Anthony Griffin and Cameron Ciraldo during their time at the NRL club. Griffin and Ciraldo will square off for the first time as head coaches when the Dragons and Bulldogs clash on Sunday afternoon.

The coaches are very familiar with one another, with Ciraldo serving as Griffin's assistant at the Panthers in 2017 and 2018. But the pair didn't exactly see eye-to-eye and reportedly clashed on a number of occasions over their different coaching styles.

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The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Saturday that Ciraldo tried to quit his post on numerous occasions and Griffin "didn't rate" his assistant as a coach. An unnamed Panthers official told the publication: “He (Griffin) didn’t listen to Ciro. He didn’t rate him. Hook was old school but Ciro was this new-age coach."

The official also claimed that Griffin was "jealous" of Ciraldo's relationship with Phil Gould, who was the club's director of football at the time. “Hook was also jealous of the relationship Ciro had with Gus, but also the players in that team," they said. “Instead of using that to his advantage, he shut Ciro out.”

Cameron Ciraldo, pictured here during a Penrith Panthers game in 2022.
Cameron Ciraldo looks on during a Penrith Panthers game in 2022. (Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Gould infamously sacked Griffin during the 2018 season despite the Panthers sitting fourth on the ladder at the time. Ciraldo took over as caretaker coach for the remainder of the season and served as Ivan Cleary's assistant as they won back-to-back premierships in 2021 and 2022.

Gould has now moved to the same role at the Bulldogs and employed Ciraldo as head coach for the 2023 season. Griffin has been Dragons coach since 2021 but is thought to be on his last legs, with the club looking to replace him for next year.

Griffin has won just 22 of 55 games while in charge of the Dragons at the dismal winning rate of 40 per cent. He fared better at the Panthers, winning 42 out of 72 (58 per cent), as well as 54 out of 101 at the Brisbane Broncos (53 per cent).

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The Dragons board has asked Griffin to reapply for his job, if he wants to stick around when his contract expires at the end of the 2023 season. But the general consensus is the club will have a new coach come 2024.

There are several names in the mix to take over from Griffin, including club greats Jason Ryles, Ben Hornby and Dean Young. Ryles is currently an assistant coach at the Roosters, but has been linked with the head-coaching job at the Melbourne Storm should Craig Bellamy call time on his career.

Hornby and Young are assistant coaches at South Sydney and North Queensland respectively, while Young served as the Dragons' caretaker coach when Paul McGregor resigned towards the end of the 2020 season.

Shane Flanagan and Des Hasler have also been touted as potential Dragons coaches. Hasler left the Manly Sea Eagles last year and was replaced by Anthony Seibold, while Flanagan formerly coached the Cronulla Sharks and is currently working as an assistant at Manly under Seibold.

Billy Slater has denied reports he was contacted by the Dragons about his interest in the role. The current Queensland State of Origin coach has also been linked to taking over from Bellamy at the Storm, however the long-time coach is yet to decide his future.

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