NRL Expert @JennaBrooks
NRL Talking Points: Gareth Widdop injury and Penrith's handshake fiasco
Last Updated: 03/04/19 4:10pm
Jenna Brooks has the latest from the NRL as an injury this week in Australia has Super League fans sweating, plus details of a handshake fiasco...
Wigan are not the only club dealing with a handshake fiasco.
Penrith's general manager Phil Gould revealed to Channel 9 last year he and Wayne Bennett had an agreement via a handshake for the England coach to take charge of the Panthers this year.
However at the same time, unbeknown to Gould, the club's chairman Dave O'Neill was in discussions with Ivan Cleary, who was at the time, the coach of the Wests Tigers, to take charge of Penrith.
Described as a breakdown in communication, Gould was left to explain to Bennett, who ended up taking the job at South Sydney.
Gould's future at the club is being questioned this week, with reports suggesting the general manager is disconnected from the club, having little contact with the coach and players.
However, O'Neill has played down these claims and defended Gould, taking full responsibility for the mixed communications.
He said: "It wasn't his [Gould's] mistake. It was mine. I'm big enough to admit that. Gus has been wonderful for us. I love him to death. He shouldn't be getting machine-gunned because of something I did.
"There is no one more than me who wants to keep Gus at the club for the next 10 years. Gus has done an incredible job. I wouldn't want him to leave. He's a very important part of our organisation."
Meanwhile, Bennett remains tight lipped on what his other options were at the time.
"I won't elaborate on that, I spoke to a number of clubs," Bennett said. "Souths is the only club I signed with and I'm really happy with that decision."
The Shaun Edwards coaching mix-up at Wigan has been blamed in-part for the champions' early struggle this season.
The unrest in the Panthers dressing room does not appear to be helping their season so far. They are 14th on the ladder, having won just once so far this season.
Adding insult to injury, the bombshell was dropped just days out from Cleary's first game against his former club, the Tigers. Fair to say the pressure is on the Panthers, and in particular, Cleary.
Boosts and blows
This week it's not just an NRL team that suffered a massive blow, but this injury has sent some fear through a Super League side as well.
St George Illawarra super star and Warrington's marquee player for 2020, Gareth Widdop injured his shoulder for a third time in five games.
The Dragons captain, who is due to have surgery in Melbourne on his dislocated shoulder, is expected to be sidelined for the entire regular season.
Both Widdop and his club are optimistic he will recover in time for the finals should they make it, giving him the send-off he deserves.
Last year the England international suffered the injury twice and did not have surgery, so at least from Warrington's point of view, he will not be rushed back into his NRL side.
Matt Dufty, who was the starting full-back last season, will once again pull on the number one jersey in Widdop's absence.
In a potential boost for the Dragons, Tyson Frizell has been named in their 21-man squad for Sunday's game against Newcastle, despite having only had surgery on a lacerated testicle three weeks ago.
There's a chance Greg Inglis returns this weekend for South Sydney against Manly, after he was named in their starting squad.
However, Inglis, who has been dealing with both knee and shoulder issues, has been treating the injuries with pain-killing injections.
According to reports in Australia, new Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett is concerned for the future of his player and told Inglis he will not allow him to play if he requires that sort of medication.
Meanwhile, Kieran Foran looks like he will spend the next three months on the sidelines. The Canterbury playmaker suffered a serious ankle injury during the Wests Tigers match and scans revealed a high ankle sprain on his right leg that requires immediate surgery.