General Puletua happy to stand aside

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NEWLY-crowned Penrith skipper Tony Puletua has revealed he will gladly return the captaincy to Craig Gower to restore peace at the troubled Panthers, declaring: "I never wanted the job."

As Penrith officials yesterday doused speculation Gower had sought a release - despite fresh interest from two British clubs - Puletua vowed to relinquish the post to prevent Gower walking out on the club.

It is understood Gower is less than pleased that Puletua offered to replace him as captain following an alcohol-fuelled incident on the Sunshine Coast in December.

But the Kiwi Test star denied he had fallen out with his teammate of nine seasons.

"I'd be happy to give the captaincy back to Craig - the last thing I want is for him to be unhappy," Puletua told The Sunday Telegraph. "I have been good mates with Craig for a long time and nothing has changed. There's no drama at all between us. If this (the captaincy) is an issue for him, I'll give it up for sure.

"In my eyes, Craig has always been the leader at this club. He should be the captain - hopefully the club can sort this situation out because it would be a massive blow if Gowie left the Panthers.

"I was shocked when I heard he had apparently asked for a release. I just hope it's not true."

Contacted by The Sunday Telegraph yesterday, Gower's manager Greg Willett insisted his client had no intention of getting out of a $2 million deal that has four years to run.

"To ask for a release you need to send a formal letter - I haven't done anything like that," said Willett, who met with Penrith coach John Lang and chief executive Mick Leary on Friday.


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However, Willett confirmed he had received interest from Castleford and Salford.
Despite denials, Gower remains furious at his treatment by Penrith. He is in the process of applying for a European passport - his mother Maria is Italian - which means he would not be counted as an import if he considered a move to England.

Lang slammed claims Penrith was a club divided over the captaincy issue. He also queried suggestions Gower was livid with the club - a belief fuelled by the fact not one Panthers teammate was invited to his wedding eight days ago.

"I have not had one hint to suggest Craig was unhappy here and would want out," Lang said.

"I could not fault Craig's attitude. He has trained as hard as anyone.

"As far as the boys are concerned, team harmony is fine."

Puletua revealed he never truly coveted the Penrith captaincy.

"To be honest, I didn't want the job in the first place," he said.

"After what happened, the club was going through a tough time and they (Penrith board) felt it was best if I took over the captaincy."

The hulking back rower conceded the Gower affair had the potential to destabilise the club.

"I spoke to a few of the boys and we're a bit concerned, we just want Penrith to get to the bottom of it," Puletua said.

The Sunday Telegraph

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Keep The Job, Dont give up captaincy because some prick wants to leave stuff him. Puletua should keep the captaincy, no matter what pussy foot Gower going to do.
 

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