Our thanks to Andrew Ferguson for his 2014 piece recounting the story of Edward Larkin, who among ot...
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rebuilding of a football club always hurts. First there's the hard, cold moment
of truth when it's realised that the path being taken is the wrong one, which
is then followed by the inevitable finger pointing, reshuffling and finally
bloodletting. It is a sad reality that the very thing that can bring so much
success to a football team, undying loyalty to teammates and the club, can have
an equally disastrous effect if it seeps into the culture of the front office.
Thus the culling process falls to an outside hatchet man, someone removed from
the group's inner core that can make decisions on tackle counts and KPIs rather
than friendships and family barbeques.
The newly silver Phil Gould has emerged as the rugby league equivalent of the Pulp Fiction character Mr Wolf in the last few years, the footballing Fix-It man who is not afraid to make the hard calls on underperforming organisations. Whilst opinions on the man may range from unbending worship to death wish it's hard to argue with Gould's rebuilding of the Roosters in the 90's and the results achieved to date by the previously pathetic Cowboys who Gould advised prior to 2011.
Gould's next challenge at the Panthers however looms as something completely different. Unlike previous efforts Gould will not have a Politis money man to back him like at Easts nor the tyranny of distance to blame if things go awry. Something that Penrith's prodigal son will have at the Panthers though is total control over all aspects of the Penrith operation, surely the one thing that could tempt Gould from his cushy media gig. Never short on ideas or opinions Gould has wasted no time wielding his power with the appointment of new coach Ivan Cleary and a raft of player movements, the biggest (both literally and figuratively) which came this week with the early release of Petero Civionceiva.
As equally adored as Gould is divisive, Petero's Bronco testimonial signing is sure to provide further angst for a fan base that experiences the dizzying heights and shattering lows of football, not in yearly cycles, but in the week to week of a standard season. Letting go of an ageing warhorse for multiple junior talents makes sense from a long term salary cap perspective, but Panthers fans will demand results from the get go and Gould knows that whilst rugby league likes to think of itself as a cool, corporate entity it is very much still a highly emotive enterprise that will cut down its most decorated at the first sign of weakness.
Whether he likes it or not the results of Penrith in the next couple of seasons will go a long way to defining how Gould is remembered in the game. A skilful player whose career was punctured with numerous injuries, Gould will need to play through the pain for some time yet if he is to turn Penrith's junior powerhouse into premiership pacesetters.