Penrith Panthers rugby league CEO Brian Fletcher has suggested then director of football Phil Gould was the only one behind Ivan Cleary's sacking at the end of 2015.

Cleary took over the Penrith Panthers for the first time in 2012 after taking the New Zealand Warriors to the 2011 NRL grand final, which wound up in a losing effort against the Manly Sea Eagles.

His first season in charge resulted in a 15th-placed finish ahead of the wooden spoon Parramatta Eels side, while 2013 saw a narrow miss from the finals.

2014 had Penrith cracking the top four, but 2015 returned to the inconsistent past ways, with the men from the foot of the mountains narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon.

It was then that Cleary was sacked by the Panthers, with the coach not finding a gig in 2016. He had a difficult two-year period with the Wests Tigers in 2017 and 2018, before returning to Penrith in 2019.

What has followed has been a story of untold success, with the club preparing for their fourth-straight grand final on Sunday against the Brisbane Broncos.

Fletcher, speaking on 2Day FM Radio, said it was all Phil Gould's decision when Cleary was originally sacked.

“He wasn't actually sacked by the club, he was actually sacked by Phil Gould,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher revealed Gould's reasoning behind the change was that he thought "Cleary was tired". Fletcher admitted it was the wrong decision.

Cleary was replaced by Anthony Griffin over the following three years, and while he found some success, he was eventually sacked in 2018 for Cleary's return by Gould, despite the fact he had signed a new two-year deal which would have kept him at the foot of the mountains until the end of 2020.

Gould and Griffin had a slanging match in the media following the coaches axing.

Gould, a constant presence in the media, now works at the Canterbury Bulldogs where he is attempting to turn the struggling club around.