Griffin: I knew I’d rattled Gus’ cage
ANTHONY Griffin didn't watch Channel 9's Footy Show on Thursday night.
He knew Phil Gould would be on the warpath, desperately trying to justify the almost unexplainable sacking of the man who had lifted the Penrith Panthers into fifth spot on the ladder.
Plus finals appearances in his two previous seasons.
"I wasn't interested," Griffin said. "I went to bed. I knew Gus was on and I knew I'd rattled his cage."
He sure had. In his fascinating interview on NRL360 on Wednesday night, Griffin calmly and carefully explained how Gould had derailed his premiership dream.
The normally unchallenged Gould copped it with both barrels.
"He embarrassed himself," Gould told The Footy Show, "he should not have done an interview."
Over breakfast on Friday morning I take Griffin through Gould's comments on the highest rating Footy Show of the year.
Griffin is convinced he did the right thing in defending himself on Fox Sports from Gould's claims that he had lost the dressing sheds, the support of his coaching staff and had poor delegation skills.
"I don't think I embarrassed myself," Griffin said, "People know I have never been a media hound.
"It's not my go but I'm not going to let someone walk over me and just slander me.
"I'm a strong person and a leader. If I have to defend myself I will.
"Some of the stuff he's said just wasn't true and now the public can make up their own mind."
An angry and bitter Gould revealed he had twice had to talk Griffin's assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo out of quitting because he has unhappy about the team's performances.
"I had a meeting with Cameron about his loyalty and his working relationship with me," reveals Griffin. "It was supposed to be a private conversation.
"He told me he was worried halfway through last year when we'd had a poor start that it was going to cost him. He obviously went to Phil to express his concerns.
"I didn't see any reason from a club point of view why he wanted to quit.
"He was put in a difficult position by Phil but we're all responsible for the way we handle things."
We learn a lot more about the Gould-Griffin feud at this interview.
Yet still no understanding how a man who was heading for the finals for the third straight year could possibly be dumped so close to the end of the season.
Griffin had a 55.8 per cent win record at Penrith, just 0.2 behind Gould's own 56 per cent record. It's the third best of the 18 head coaches in Panthers history.
He was set to pass Gould in the next two weeks in games against the Titans and Knights.
Griffin reveals their biggest falling out this year was over the future of skipper Peter Wallace.
Gould didn't want him in first grade, Griffin did.
There were heated exchanges and then a six-week period where Gould refused to respond to the coach's text messages or phone calls.
On Tuesday, June 19, Griffin fronted chief executive Brian Fletcher to get his assistance to re-open communication lines.
Later that day he got a call from Panthers chairman Dave O'Neill who initially backed him and pointed out Gould had fallen out with their previous coach Ivan Cleary.
It wasn't to happen again.
Griffin meets Gould two days later and there is an uneasy truce. But it didn't last.
The coach says he had hoped to last until the end of the season: "Then get in the ring with him and work things out." It wasn't to be.
Gould's claims that Griffin had lost the dressing room hurt most.
He pulls out his phone and shows me text messages from almost every player.
A beautiful one from Nathan Cleary, thanking him for the opportunity to play at such a young age.
There are plenty of others from Trent Robinson, Anthony Seibold, Darren Lockyer, Wally Lewis, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, Todd Greenberg, Steven Kearney, Bart Campbell and Dennis Watt.
"It's been a trying time," he says, "but when people are caring for you like that, it's nice and it helps.
"I've had great support from players, my family and a lot of staff at Penrith.
"At the end of the day you've got to remember this is a game of football. There's 100 million people in China that wouldn't care. There's people starving in all parts of the world.
"Life moves on if you know what I mean. My priority is protecting my family."
Griffin flew to Rockhampton on Saturday to visit his 90-year-old dad.
Outside of the bye round, it's the first free footy weekend he can recall.
Vince Griffin hasn't been well and took the news of his son's sacking badly.
"We'll watch the Panthers on TV," Griffin said. "Seriously, I hope they win every game. I really do."