Ivan Cleary would love to coach in the NRL again - and would be open to a return to New Zealand.

The former Warriors and Penrith coach has been employed as a referees consultant by the NRL this season, working with the officials and the match review committee on their decision-making processes.

But his time away from the clipboard has only strengthened his desire to return to a coaching role.

"I want to coach again," Cleary told the Herald on Sunday. "I consider myself a career coach and this year has been my first season out of the NRL in the last 25 years [as a player or coach]. I've spent time upskilling myself and I look forward to working as a coach again at some stage."


Whatever unfolds in the future, Cleary will always be inextricably linked with the Warriors, who finish their season at home tonight against the Parramatta Eels, with both sides unable to make the playoffs.

He spent two seasons at Mt Smart as a player and was part of the 2002 side that made the club's first grand final. Cleary returned as an assistant coach in 2004, and was given the top job two years later when Tony Kemp was moved on. Across six seasons, Cleary fashioned an impressive record with the Warriors. He reached the top eight four times, making the preliminary final in 2008 and the grand final in 2011, with an overall 50 per cent win record (77 from 154).

"I loved my time at the Warriors," said Cleary. "It was the start of everything for me and I left with a heavy heart. There was some talk around at the time that I was leaving to go home but that wasn't the case at all. Moving to Penrith was completely the other side of Sydney for me."

Cleary had mixed success at the Panthers. He embarked on a major rebuilding process in his first two seasons and missed the finals, but reached the preliminary finals in 2014 and was named Dally M Coach of the Year. He was dismissed by Phil Gould after the Panthers finished 11th last season but many of the players he blooded are thriving this year.

He has a decade of NRL coaching behind him, and more than 250 matches, but is realistic about the current situation.

"There aren't many coaching jobs around but I would like to pursue another opportunity," said Cleary. "If something comes up, I will definitely look at it."

Meanwhile, his son Nathan has taken the NRL by storm, with the rookie halfback spearheading Penrith's impressive campaign.

"I've been surprised at the speed of it all," said Cleary. "For a young player, he has been very consistent and probably the best thing about him is the difference between his best game and worst game is not much. Expectations will be higher as time goes on, but I'm pretty sure he can handle it."