Flanagan's influence on Panthers' Ciraldo

Penrith coach Cameron Ciraldo is thankful for Cronulla counterpart Shane Flanagan's influence.
Penrith coach Cameron Ciraldo is thankful for Cronulla counterpart Shane Flanagan's influence.

It's Shane Flanagan's coaching philosophy that has played its role in Cameron Ciraldo's rise.

The Penrith caretaker has revealed how his Cronulla counterpart has shaped his thinking around how the game should be played - particularly when it comes to using second-rowers.

And now those ideas could come back to bite him when the Panthers meet the Sharks in Friday's NRL elimination final at Allianz Stadium.

"It'd be special no matter who we're playing because it's a big occasion for our club. Selfishly, we want to finish the year off the way we feel like we deserve to," Ciraldo told AAP.

Ciraldo was in his second year at the Sharks when Flanagan came on board as an assistant, and the promising local learned plenty about his craft from the current Sharks mentor.

Unfortunately for Ciraldo, he was stuck in a logjam of back-rowers that included a young Paul Gallen, Greg Bird, Reece Williams and Lance Thompson.

"I remember lots of 'Flanno'. A lot of what I learnt off him I take into my own game now," he said.

"I really liked the way he coached back-rowers. I remember specifically how he used to like back-rowers to play."

It's why Panthers weapon Viliame Kikau threatens to be a game-breaker on Friday.

"I took a lot out of it as a player firstly, and still hold onto a lot of that now, the way I talk to our back-rowers here and what we do with them.

"I learned a lot off him and (Ricky Stuart) at the time. It's probably helped me now, just different ways for back-rowers to get the ball. The Sharks had a few good ones back then."

Flanagan recalled how Ciraldo's burgeoning career was set back by a serious ankle injury, but saw plenty of potential in the towering forward.

"Back then we had a surprisingly young Paul Gallen. Cameron was a young kid on the rise and it would've been tough for him to break into that team, but he did," Flanagan said.

"It's really hard to pick the players who go into coaching afterwards, but he had a footy brain. I''m happy for him that he's had some success in the lower grades at Penrith.

"I'm not sure what the future holds for him but he's got an opportunity now and doing well."

Australian Associated Press