Dejected Panthers skipper James Maloney after Friday night's loss to the Sharks. Photo: Craig Golding/AAP
Dejected Panthers skipper James Maloney after Friday night's loss to the Sharks. Photo: Craig Golding/AAP CRAIG GOLDING

Ciraldo vows to work a--- off for Panthers

WHATEVER Cameron Ciraldo's job is at Penrith next year, everything the caretaker coach does will be about arresting their reputations as the NRL's cardiac kids.

The Panthers mounted a gutsy comeback but ultimately fell short 21-20 against Cronulla in Friday night's semi-final, bringing their tumultuous season to a close.

Down 18-0 just before half-time, the Panthers threatened to do the improbable - as they had done so often this year - when Waqa Blake scored to lock up the scores at 20-20 with 10 minutes remaining.

But they were bundled from the competition after the Sharks got home thanks to a 75th-minute Chad Townsend field goal.

On four occasions this year the Panthers overturned a 14-point deficit in the second half with rousing fightbacks - such as their famous win against Manly in round 20 - becoming their trademark.

Caretaker coach Ciraldo said their habit of giving up big leads ultimately came back to haunt them with their season on the line.

"You shouldn't be able to do that this time of the year, to be catching up from 14-0, 18-0. It just shouldn't happen," Ciraldo said.

"Everything we do in the pre-season has to be about making sure that doesn't happen to us next year and become a habit for us like it was this year."

It remains to be seen what Ciraldo's position will be when the club resumes pre-season training in November

He was appointed to the caretaker role after the club punted Anthony Griffin, in large part because of their habit of giving up big leads before fighting their way back into the game.

Ivan Cleary, who had been heavily linked to the club, would seem set to stay at the Wests Tigers.

Ciraldo was adamant he hadn't put any thought into next year. He is a candidate for the head coaching role.

"Whatever my job title is I'll be working my a--- off to make sure we're not in this position again," Ciraldo said.

He said Penrith's playing group had to be driven by the heartbreak of this year's finals exit as they headed into 2019.

"No matter who's doing what or who's in what position, the feeling they're feeling right now has to drive the group for the next 12 months and make sure we don't end up in the same place," Ciraldo said.

"I don't really care what job I've got or what my role is, there's potential there and we've got to make sure we realise it."

Panthers skipper James Maloney stopped short of declaring the club should be in premiership contention next year but said the 2018 season was one of missed opportunities.

"I'm very proud of a young group of players. Yeah, they're young but they're also very good players," Maloney said.

"And we could have gone further."