Penrith Panthers fire head coach 4 weeks out from playoffs

SYDNEY — Anthony Griffin has been stood down as Penrith Panthers head coach just four weeks out from the National Rugby League finals series.

Panthers chief executive Brian Fletcher released a statement Monday saying "the club and Anthony have agreed to part ways, effective immediately."

Fletcher's statement didn't outline a reason for the unusual timing of the decision or the sudden departure, but it followed intense media speculation about a rift between Griffin and Panthers general manager Phil Gould.

The Panthers are in fifth spot in the 16-team league and in strong contention to make the playoffs.

Griffin, who had been contracted until the end of the 2020 season, is expected to be replaced for the remainder of the NRL season by assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo.

"Anthony departs the club after much success, having taken the Panthers to the finals in the last two years and leaves the club on track for another finals appearance in 2018," Fletcher said.

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