Durko: NRL should make a play for Gould
THE NRL needs Gus on its bus.
As a footy fan, one of the most difficult aspects of this week's parting of the ways between Phil Gould and the Penrith Panthers is deciphering fact from fiction.
And in light of Israel Folau's recent Instagram post in which he proclaimed hell awaits liars - among a long list of many other sinners - some involved in the media circus might well be headed for an afterlife down under.
Despite the hype and fabrication surrounding the tumultuous week at Penrith, one fact remains absolutely unchallenged - Gus Gould is the man who literally saved the club when he was appointed general manager back in 2011. This is also the club for which Gould made his NRL debut and coached to its maiden NRL premiership.
While everyone has a use-by date, Gould's departure will no doubt create a huge void. In those nine years back at the Panthers he has been the only high-vis club executive.
Admittedly, he can be a divisive character. People either love him or loathe him - and that's just those exposed to him largely through his TV commentary.
And for some peculiar reason he has become the punching bag for media personalities who obviously have an axe to grind.
Many of those this past week have donned the gloves to deliver a barrage of lefts, rights and uppercuts.
If we believe one side of the debate, Ivan Cleary returned to coach the Panthers this season - after Gus had sacked him in 2015 - on the condition Gould had no involvement whatsoever with the team.
Gus denies that, Panthers officials deny that and yesterday Cleary added his denial.
The anti-Gould faction - while crediting him for bringing Penrith back from the brink - claim he had too much say on recruitment, and how the team played. Again, Gus refutes that.
What is factual, however, is that since Gould's return, the club with the biggest junior nursery in the game has had six coaches - Cleary twice - and played finals football just four times. Nowhere near good enough say his critics.
Many are speculating about the road ahead for the 60-year-old, who is considered by many - me included - as one of the smartest minds involved in our game.
Since news of his imminent departure broke on Tuesday his name has been linked to Cronulla - where, incidentally, he lives - as well as the Rabbitohs, Knights, Dragons and Bulldogs.
And while he will no doubt be somewhat constrained by the loss of the speculated $800,000-a-year pay packet from the Panthers, he will continue to pick up a few bucks as a member of the Channel 9 commentary team and a panellist on the excellent 100% Footy program each Monday night.
But if NRL Commission chairman Peter Beattie is on the ball, he should have already been on the phone to Gus for a "come in and let's talk" call.
Lateral thinkers like Gould, who have been involved in rugby league most of their lives and love the game to bits, should never be allowed to sit in the corner. Not by the sometimes-leaderless NRL, anyway.