GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 11: Panters player Nathan Cleary and coach Cameron Ciraldo speak to media after the round 22 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Penrith Panthers at Cbus Super Stadium on August 11, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

After weeks of speculation, Panthers head coach Ivan Cleary admitted he’s accepted that highly-respected assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo will likely leave the club at the end of the season.

The Bulldogs are leading the race to secure Ciraldo’s services following the dismissal of Trent Barrett earlier this season. Pictures emerged this week of Ciraldo meeting with powerbrokers at the Belmore club.

“It’s the price of success, whether its players or coaches,” Cleary admitted following Penrith’s 10-point win against Cronulla on Saturday.

“As long as people are moving upwards not sideways you’ve got to be happy for them.

“I can tell you for sure (Ciraldo) hasn’t done anything yet (regarding his future).

“He’s as ready as he’ll ever be. Some things you’ll never be ready for and head coaching is probably one of them, but some people are more ready than others.”

If Ciraldo does move on it would come just months after the departure of another of Cleary’s assistants, with Andrew Webster to take control of the Warriors from 2023.

Canterbury are currently being coached by former club legend Mick Potter. Despite initially claiming he was reluctant to return to coaching full-time, Potter announced this week that he wants to make his move to the Bulldogs permanent, even if loses the NRL Head Coaching role.

Ciraldo has been instrumental in shaping the current Panthers side, working with a number of the current squad through the junior ranks – but despite the Panthers’ pedigree, there are no guarantees of success for outgoing assistants.

Former Bulldogs coach Barrett also spent plenty of time within the Panthers system before his ill-fated move to Belmore. There were also reports that Barrett had a recent desire to return to Penrith which was rebuffed – although that stance may change if Ciraldo departs.

Garth Brennan also served as an assistant in the Panthers system and coached the NSW Cup side to two premierships before taking the head coaching role at the Gold Coast. He won just 12 games out of 40 and was terminated from the role less than two years after signing on.