‘You want to play for him’: Gould, Bulldogs players praise incoming Ciraldo

“We had an inkling it would be Ciro, but we weren’t exactly sure. ‘Pottsy’ [caretaker coach Mick Potter] has been doing a great job, and now we know we can finish the year off strongly under him – he has so much respect from the players – and then next year we’ll look forward to Ciro coming.”

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Superstar five-eighth Matt Burton told the Herald in the lead-up to the clash against the Cowboys earlier this month that one of Ciraldo’s biggest strengths was his communication with players.

“He’s a great coach who gets things across to the players easily, he’s a smart guy,” Burton said. “The way he presents himself and does the little things like that, it’s important.”

Burton said at the time that Ciraldo’s appointment would not necessarily be a deal-breaker when it came to his own future and reiterated that he was enjoying life at Belmore.

Just as Wayne Bennett vowed not to plunder the South Sydney roster after he departed the club and joined NRL newcomers the Dolphins, Penrith do not expect Ciraldo to lure a handful of Panthers across with him to Belmore.

Ciraldo has spent years working with the premiership club, and Liam Martin, Stephen Crichton and Brian To’o are among the players off contract at the end of next year who have a bond with the assistant. So, too, does Spencer Leniu, who was a one-time Dogs’ target.

Panthers officials said on Monday they were confident they could keep the representative trio, and negotiations with Crichton, Martin and To’o were progressing well.

They said there would be no such clauses that prohibit Ciraldo signing Penrith players, but if he did have an interest in someone, he would inform them of his intentions.

Meanwhile, the Panthers are closing in on signing Broncos forward Zac Hosking who has played two games for Brisbane this season.

Ciraldo forged a close bond with first-year NRL head coach Craig Fitzgibbon who initially wanted Ciraldo as his own assistant this season at Cronulla, and has the Sharks right in the hunt for a top-two finish.

Stream the NRL Premiership 2022 live and free on 9Now.

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