Nathan Cleary claims it's only a matter of time before Cameron Ciraldo becomes a head coach after the Penrith assistant knocked back a move to Cronulla.
Ciraldo confirmed on Thursday night he wouldn't join Craig Fitzgibbon's new coaching staff next year, instead remaining committed to his Penrith deal.
The Panthers' sheds erupted when coach Ivan Cleary announced "Ciro's in" following Thursday night's 24-6 win over Newcastle.
Ciraldo remains a popular figure of Penrith's staff, having brought most the squad through the juniors and since taken charge of their defence.
But players have no doubt he will one day head up an NRL team, after having also filled an interim role at the Panthers in 2018.
"A lot of us spent two years under him as an under-20s coach," Nathan Cleary said.
"He's definitely got what it takes but I think the role he is in now ... adds so much to the coaching staff.
"He is still young and his aspirations are to be a head coach. But he's not rushing that. He's certainly not undervalued at our club.
"When he said he was going to say, all the boys were pumped with that."
The offer to head to Cronulla as an assistant was tantalising for Ciraldo.
He lives in the Sutherland Shire and would have been able to spend more time with his family.
It also could have added further weight to his resume, as well as the opportunity to learn under a different voice in Fitzgibbon.
But the Panthers were always confident they would keep their man, who was still contracted for 2022.
With Ciraldo looking after defence, Penrith are conceding just six points a game this year. They have let in more than 20 just four times since August 2019.
They firmly believed he would want to be around for the club's success, as well as the chance to win a premiership they missed out on by one game last year.
"It's a pretty cool thing to see someone like him, who has a lot of opportunities, show his loyalty and want to stay at the club," Cleary said.
"You would be crazy not to go after him as a coach, he is a great coach. But for him to show his loyalty and stay here, it just shows what is going on.
"We're pretty fond of him. He's a massive asset to this club and what the boys are doing."
Australian Associated Press