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Warriors 'not distracted by Cleary news'

Robert Lowe 07/07/2011 01:32:10 PM Comments (0)

ZPA - Captain Simon Mannering admits Warriors' players were shocked to learn of coach Ivan Cleary's end-of-season departure but insists they're not dwelling on it.

On Friday night, the Warriors play for the first time since receiving the news when they try to get their NRL season back on track against last-placed Gold Coast in Auckland.

On a streak of four straight losses, which has seen them drop out of the top eight, they can ill afford to be distracted and slip up in a game they should win.

Fortunately for the club, they were able to use their bye week to announce Cleary's switch to Penrith next year after six seasons, giving the players more time to refocus.

"You definitely heard whispers about it but, to get it told to you, still took you back a bit," said Mannering.

"I'm sure a few of the other guys were shocked but Ivan said the day he announced it, that this is the last to be spoken about it, that he's still got a job to do this year and, as players, we do as well. So we've tried to carry on as normal as possible."

Cleary secured a three-year deal with the Panthers after the Warriors couldn't guarantee him a similar term and allowed him to end his contract a year early.

"It's sad to see Ivan go but he's probably done the right thing for himself and his family," said Mannering.

"The majority of my career, I've had him as coach, so it will be funny not to have him here."

Former Kiwi coach Brian McClennan is seen as the fans' choice as a replacement ahead of Cleary's assistant Tony Iro and Junior Warriors' coach John Ackland.

Asked who he thought should take over, Mannering said the decision is up to club management. "I'm sure they will make the right one."

Fellow senior player Micheal Luck agrees Cleary's impending departure is no longer an issue around the squad.

"It was smart of the club to do it in the bye week because there was always going to be a few waves about it," said Luck, who returns at lockto face the Titans after an earlier-than-expected recovery from a dislocated kneecap.

"We came back to training on Saturday for this game and nothing has been said about it."

"We've got nine games to go and we've got to win the majority of those to get into the playoffs," he said.

"I know Ivan will be doing his best to prepare us, and not just Ivan, but the whole coaching staff. Our one sole focus is winning games to make the playoffs."

While Gold Coast are at the foot of the table, Luck believes their position is misleading.

They have the creativity of Scott Prince at halfback and backrowers Greg Bird, Mark Minichiello and Anthony Laffranchi provide plenty of punch on the edges, although Bird and lock Ashley Harrison will be backing up just two days after State of Origin III.

"I like watching the Titans play," Luck said.

"They create a lot of opportunities. They're just not finishing them."

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