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TOPIC: Gus v Buzz

Gus v Buzz 11 months 1 day ago #25994

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Buzz Rothfield v Gus Gould: Penrith’s form, Moylan’s captaincy and that five-year plan
Phil Rothfield Sports Editor-at-large, The Daily Telegraph
April 18, 2017 8:30pm

IT’S the interview we didn’t expect to get given our shaky relationship over more than 30 years.

I texted Phil Gould on Easter Monday afternoon — the day after his team got clobbered by the Sharks.

“Hey Gus. Any chance we can catch up for an interview tomorrow please. Preferably face-to-face in the Shire or Penrith but can do phoner or email questions if that’s preferable. Thx Buzz.”

He replies an hour later: “I am at Penrith all day, every day this week. You are welcome to come for an interview anytime at your convenience. Best wishes.”

Phil Gould insists his struggling Penrith Panthers can still make the NRL top four despite a horror opening to the season they started as premiership favourites.

He is also backing coach Anthony Griffin’s recent decision to sack three players for disciplinary reasons and supports rookie skipper Matt Moylan to continue as captain.

“We’re sure Matt will get there,” Gould said, “All young captains go through self-doubt.”

Buzz: You’ve won just two from seven and been bashed by Souths and Cronulla on the weekend.

Gus: Yeah, we’ve been up and down. There’s been some good football but a bit disjointed. They haven’t had the best team on the paddock yet. I’m still reasonably positive about them.

Buzz: There’s some bad stats. Most missed tackles in the comp. You’ve only scored 20 tries, which is just one ahead of the Knights. You were premiership favourites two months ago.

Gus: We didn’t make ourselves favourites. People were saying St George wouldn’t make the eight but they’re on top of the comp. We’re a young team on the rise. The back end of last year the competition got a bit weak. We made a run, Gold Coast pushed up there. We were under no illusions how difficult this was going to be.

Buzz: Who has to accept responsibility? Is it the coach’s fault? Your fault? The players?

Gus: You want someone to blame?

Buzz: Well, someone has to accept responsibility.

Gus: We’re a club and we all do.

Buzz: Are you happy with the job Hook (Anthony Griffin) is doing.

Gus: Look, if you want to blame someone for anything at Penrith blame me. Everyone here is doing an outstanding job. I couldn’t be happier with the work ethic, the moral, the spirit.

Buzz: Is the top four still possible?

Gus: Absolutely it is. [Penrith’s form] is a talking point now and we accept that from the results. The scoreboard’s not ticking for us at the moment but we’ll be OK.

Buzz: If you were the coach, would you have dropped Matt Moylan, Peter Hiku and Waqa Blake for breaking a 10.30pm curfew in Melbourne?

Gus: It wasn’t a curfew. That’s misinformation.

Buzz: Well, what was it?

Gus: The players played at 7.30pm in Melbourne and got back to the hotel about 10.30pm. They had a rehab session the next morning and the coach asked them not to go out. They were allowed a few beers at the hotel but couldn’t go out.

Buzz: But would you have dropped them?

Gus: That’s not my decision, it’s totally the coach’s decision.

Buzz: That’s not answering my question. Would you have dropped them?

Gus: I coached 20 years ago Buzz. We covered everything up (laughs). It doesn’t work. There are different standards today. If they’d gone out and got themselves in an incident, can you imagine what the media would have done to them?

Buzz: That’s my whole point. They weren’t blind drunk, they didn’t belt a cab driver. They weren’t rude to women.

Gus: They left themselves open to it. They had early recovery, 27 of our 30 had a beer in house. Three blokes decided to sneak out and go to see some friends. 27 played by the rules and three didn’t.

If you’re looking for discipline, tough decisions need to be made.

Buzz: What about the captaincy? Is Moylan working?

Gus: He’s a work in progress.

Buzz: I’m asking because last year you said Trent Merrin should captain NSW. If that’s the case why isn’t he captaining Penrith?

Gus: It was Merrin’s first year at the club last year. Matty Moylan is a local junior who has come through our system. He’s a very popular player in our squad. The coach when he got here really admired the way he trained and his knowledge of the game. We were looking for a long-term captain. We’re sure Matt will get there. All young captains go through self-doubts. Brad Fittler was a bit like that. They grow into it and I’m confident he will grow into a really good leader.

I ask Gould if it’s hard working in the media when his outspoken comments are often used as ammunition by rival clubs. Like on the weekend when Cronulla responded to his criticism that last year’s premiership was “soft”.

Gus: That wasn’t a criticism of the Sharks. They might have won it if it was the toughest competition in the world. They were the best team, which I tipped all year. If they want to take umbrage to that, it’s their business.

Buzz: You described the Blues Origin skipper as selfish last year in his leadership. He did captain his club to win the premiership.

Gus: That was criticism across the board. Everyone assumed it was pointed at Paul Gallen. I was talking about the NSW Rugby League and everything I’ve seen about the NSW Origin program for a long time. It wasn’t just Gal.

Buzz: What do you think of him as a footballer?

Gus: A Trojan. He’s been a warrior for a very long period of time.

Buzz: You erred letting him go all those years ago.

Gus: Back at that time, we were really struggling as a club. He was struggling playing in a team that wasn’t competitive. He wanted to go somewhere he could win a premiership in the back end of his career. I love Luke Lewis.

Buzz: I thought you punted him.

Gus: No, he wanted a release. 100 per cent. Your man recruited him, Paul Gallen. We were going through a rebuilding program and he wanted to go to a stronger club. I’m very happy for him that he got to win the premiership last year.

Gus: That’s your gibber, not mine.

Buzz: You did a report in 2012 — “Built from within” — in which you had grim forecast of being near the bottom of the ladder until 2016 then you’d be on the money. That’s five years. I guess that’s where it came from

Gus: That was all about developing pathways. One of the problems when I first arrived here was probably 20 of our 25 players hadn’t come through our system. It’s very hard to build a Panthers culture when so few of your players hadn’t come through the system. The eventual aim was to have 80 per cent of our roster home grown. Next year with a 30 man squad, you’ll find about 23 of them debuted at this club.

Buzz: Do you ever get involved.

Gus: No.

Buzz: You never help Hook out?

Gus: All our coaches do the coaching. I’m always around here and talk about things but there is no official interaction.

Buzz: He must come to you now and again for advice.

Gus: He loves talking football. We all love talking football. Juniors reps. All of them. My role is to be in a support role for everyone who works here.

Buzz: Do your ever regret sacking Ivan Cleary?

Gus: No, that was just a timing thing. I did it as much for him as I did for our club. I always knew he’d get another job and I said to him at the time they he needed a spell. There were some signs he needed a break.

Buzz: I did 50 predictions at the start of the year. One was that you’d inevitably shut down your Twitter account.

Gus: Well, you got something right. When I did the Nine deal recently, it was pointed out that a lot of the journalists were writing columns off what I was saying on social media. Well, I thought I’d just close it down. I enjoyed talking to the fans but mainstream media started picking it up for stories.

Buzz: What about your own health? I hear you haven’t been all that well.

Gus: It’s the best it’s been for a long time. I’ve had four surgeries since December for different things and I’m feeling better than I have for a long time.

Obviously Gould would prefer to be in a better position than two wins from seven starts considering they started the season as premiership favourites with the bookies. But he’s more into the big picture.

He gives us a tour of their magnificent $20 million academy. It’s as good or up there with anything I’ve seen at NFL clubs in the United States or the Premier League clubs UK.

Two NRL standard playing fields, high definition cameras, a staff of 53 from marketing to medicals. Three full-time physios. A doctor. A massive gymnasium and recovery area. A huge dining room where players have their breakfast and lunch every day.

It’s a facility other NRL clubs would die for.

Gould is signed up until 2020.

“I’m here while ever they think they need me,” he says. “We’re extremely proud of where we stand at the moment.

“The systems we’ve put in place, the facility, the pathways, the staffing levels and the expertise we’ve got in those positions will sustain this club right it into the future.

“We’ve sure come a long way.”
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