The Lebanese Rugby League Federation has reluctantly announced the release of Ivan Cleary from his position of national team coach, following his appointment as head coach of Wests Tigers earlier this month.
The federation and Cleary had been discussing a possible renegotiation of the terms of their agreement but the all-consuming demands of an NRL top position meant that it was not feasible.
“It is with regret that I am unable to complete my duties for Lebanon’s Rugby League World Cup campaign,” said Cleary, who led New Zealand Warriors to the NRL Grand Final in 2011. “Having begun their preparations, I will be following the Cedars with very keen interest, and I believe not only that they will be extremely competitive in the tournament, but that – more importantly – they will become trailblazers for the continuing development of rugby league in Lebanon.
“I know they will have massive support for the tournament.”
“We fully understand Ivan’s commitment to Wests Tigers,” explained Raymond Safi, CEO of the LRLF. “And as he would not have been able to give a hundred per cent to both roles, which would always have been his wish, it was best for both parties that we should part company. Each of the two endeavours deserves to be successful in its own right, and we wish Ivan all the best with his new job.”
Safi will head out to Australia next week to interview a clutch of candidates to take on the role, with LRLF board committed to appointing, not only an NRL first grade or assistant coach to lead the Lebanon’s first World Cup campaign since 2000, but one who will, thereafter, build up a long-term relationship with its local leagues and structures.