Penrith have received an enormous boost on the eve of the NRL season, after Phil Gould committed to the club until the end of 2017.
The Panthers chief has revealed that he could not walk away from the players and coaches he had recruited to rebuild a club that was on its knees less than three years ago.
“I've asked a number of people to join our club — coaches, players and management — over the last 18 months,” Gould said. “They've all shown great confidence in what we were doing and they joined in good faith, so I can't really walk away from them until we've spent a fair bit of time together. The chairman, Don Feltis, and his board have been wonderful.
“They approached me about staying around until the end of 2017. We shall continue to develop everything we've put in place over the last couple of years."
Having orchestrated a complete turnaround at the club, on and off the field, there was a strong belief Gould would walk away with the job all but finished.
A former premiership-winning coach with the Panthers in 1991, Gould became involved in May 2011 as the club faced enormous salary cap and financial pressures.
He triggered an immediate reshuffle of the playing roster that squeezed out Petero Civoniceva, Michael Jennings and Luke Lewis. He also convinced Warriors coach Ivan Cleary to come on board to replace the dumped Matt Elliott, and most recently secured the signature of representative centre Jamal Idris from the Gold Coast.
Last year, the Panthers' National Youth Competition team won the premiership, and Gould said: "The next first-grade side will come from within the club."
Perhaps of greater significance, though, was his ability to convince good friend and billionaire James Packer to give the Panthers Group a loan, as it came within days of liquidation with debts of $90million.
"The club was in a precarious position," Gould said. "If it wasn't for the board making tough decisions, who knows what might've happened. The best signing we've made is [Panthers Group chief executive] Warren Wilson."
Gould also came on board as the AFL launched a direct raid on western Sydney through the newly created GWS Giants. Having lobbied all three levels of government, he has secured important rugby league and community infrastructure for his club and Sydney's west.
"There's a lot of work being done at Penrith, on many levels, over the next few years," Gould said. "The building of our NRL academy and the Western Sydney Community and Sports Centre over the next two seasons will see $80million worth of sporting and community facilities on our precinct at Panthers, which is in conjunction with a number of other building operations around the licensed premises, so it's an exciting time with the club.
"By 2017, Crown's $10million investment in a training and education facility will then be completed. We've introduced a number of projects in the last couple of seasons that have us well placed for the future. The extension of my stay by the board of directors is an invitation to work even harder than we have for the last couple of years. We will achieve our goal of making the Panthers the No.1 sporting franchise in the country