Who's your daddy? Cleary fit for showdown with old man and Brooks

Who’s your daddy? Cleary fit for showdown with old man and Brooks
By Christian Nicolussi 11 May 2018 — 6:00pm

Perched in the Keith Barnes Stand at one end of Leichhardt Oval, Nathan Cleary watched the Wests Tigers and his rival No.7 Luke Brooks with plenty of interest on Thursday night. And less than an hour after Brooks helped orchestrate the Tigers’ 20-12 victory over North Queensland, Cleary declared he would return from a knee injury next Thursday when Brooks and his coach – Nathan’s father Ivan – travel down the M4 Motorway to Penrith. Nathan versus Ivan and Brooks – the player in the mix for the NSW No.7 jersey – will be one of the best stories of the NRL season. One cheeky Tigers player asked Ivan as he addressed the players after their win: “Any chance you can give the halfback food poisoning next week?” Cleary spotted Nathan being interviewed and yelled from his car: ''He’s here taking notes, apparently." The 20-year-old playmaker survived a final fitness session on Friday and will rejoin the main playing group on Monday for the Panthers Stadium clash that deserves to be a sell-out.

"It’s pretty funny how it works out, and there’s already a bit of banter flying around,’’ said Nathan, who for the record was not decked out in Tigers supporters’ gear at Leichhardt. "He doesn’t reckon I’ll get picked. Hopefully I do. I’m looking forward to getting back playing, and funnily enough it’s against the old man. "The second time around [against Ivan], I’m kind of looking forward to it. It’s a fun week. "I stayed at home the full week last time and we got the win, so hopefully it’s the same. There will be no car pooling. I might even let down a few of his tyres.’’ The bond between father and son was impossible to ignore late Thursday and made it easy to picture Nathan being cheered by the same Leichhardt faithful who celebrated Brooks. If you are a Tigers fan, you can only dream of a Cleary and Brooks halves combination from 2020 onwards. Cleary maintained he had given no thought about what he would do once his current deal at the foot of the mountains expired at the end of next season.

Brooks could see the funny side of Cleary becoming the eventual owner of his club jersey. "My dad would probably choose me as well – I hope he would,’’ Brooks said. "If that happens, it happens. I can’t control it. He’s said he wants to play under Ivan, but Ivan did tell me he had full confidence in me when that did come out.’’ Brooks was at his best against the Cowboys, especially in the first half. He showed marvellous speed to run 90m for a try and proved too slick for Queensland Origin star Michael Morgan. Even Nathan gave him a rap. “He’s been in awesome form this year,” he said. "He’ll be tough and and we’ll gave to be on our A-game next week, especially in defence. "He’s looking good and I’m looking forward to playing him.’’

Cleary’s return will be a boost for a Panthers pack who have had more than their share of injuries. He will have two games to prove to NSW coach Brad Fittler he is physically ready to be thrown into the Origin cauldron. He broke down with a knee injury in round three against Canterbury, leaving it to halves partner James Maloney to step up and do a fantastic job steering the team around in his absence. Brooks, 23, is making an irresistible case to be given a Blues nod. Next Thursday’s family affair will also feature Panthers fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and his older brother Malakai, who scored a try in his first-grade recall for the Tigers.

The good thing about these positive fluff stories (whether true or not) is that good players will read this and start to consider the Tigers as a destination to move to.

Confirmed by Anthony Griffin.
The kid will be looking to impress in hopes for an Origin start.
Have the big boys shut him down.

Job for rowdy to be on him all game me thinks

He’s missed a lot of football. It’s a very winnable game.

Get ready for a week of this

Nathan will be targeted in any game plan but gone are the days of players deliberately being taken out by foul play.


Nathan will be targeted in any game plan but gone are the days of players deliberately being taken out by foul play.

Ryan James didn’t deliberately take out Tedesco?

Must’ve enjoyed the crowd on Thursday……

Might persuade him even more

Brooks and Cleary as a combination, take my money!

damn are they sure he doesn’t need an extra week?

not that it matters I guess, they have been doing alright given the amount of injuries they’ve had

Will Peachy will go to the Centres, Bench or 5/8?
If Maloney is out…Then it will be Cleary& Peach in the halves

From SMH.com
Shuck and awe: Panthers praise Cleary’s professionalism

It is a return ahead of time that will no doubt warm the hearts of long-suffering NSW fans - and Nathan Cleary has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure his comeback will be against father Ivan’s Wests Tigers.

Having been almost resigned to the fact Cleary would struggle to make it back on the field before Brad Fittler pencils in his NSW team on May 28, the Panthers are now preparing to take the cotton wool off the 20-year-old for an 80-minute family feud on Thursday night.

Cleary had his first field session with Penrith on Monday night - minus James Maloney who was bedside with his wife as they prepared for the birth of their fourth child - and has turned to different remedies to be fit for the Tigers match.

Panthers teammates have told how Cleary has discovered recovery gels to aide his rehabilitation while the Blues hopeful revealed on Monday he had feasted on a diet of oysters to heal his knee complaint.

Cleary relaxed at the family home, where he still lives, with Ivan on Monday before tuning up with his Penrith teammates ahead of the Thursday night game at Panthers Stadium.
“He looks tremendous,” Panthers prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard said. "He doesn’t look like he has had six to eight weeks off. If that was me I would definitely be a couple of kilos heavier and not looking the best.

"He has kept himself in good shape and he is itching to get on that field right now.

“He has done everything right to get his body ready and get his knee right. He has come back two weeks prior to what they said. It shows he has put in the effort to get his knee right.”

Cleary told NRL.com: “Someone sent me an article of good foods to eat while you have a ligament injury and oysters happened to be on there. Mum’s pretty good to me but Dad has refused to give them to me. He wanted to push my recovery back a week.”

The Cleary-Maloney tandem was only in its infancy when the former was struck down against the Bulldogs in round three, requiring Maloney to nurse a decimated Panthers into second spot on the ladder.

The pair are unlikely to combine on the training field again until Wednesday’s captain’s run.

And if Cleary can make it through his comeback match unscathed, focus will turn to whether Fittler has seen enough to potentially pair the Penrith playmakers together in sky blue.

“If he just does his role for us and steers us around the park and ticks all the boxes I think Freddy will pick him,” Panthers forward Trent Merrin said. "He’s a world-class player and he treats [his injuries] as a professional.

"Obviously if he gets through these two games for the next couple of weeks then everything will be sweet. He’s done everything and more the physio has put in front of him.

If he just does his role for us and steers us around the park and ticks all the boxes I think Freddy will pick him

Trent Merrin
“He’s first in, last out [at training]. Everything he’s doing - he’s in the cryo machine all the time, he’s eating his gels that he has to eat - he’s doing everything he has to do to put himself in the position [to play this week].”

Cleary’s comeback is likely to shift Tyrone Peachey back to the centres as the Panthers look to draw level with the Dragons - albeit momentarily - at the top of the NRL ladder despite a crippling injury toll.

While Cleary’s return could have ramifications for NSW, Merrin’s outstanding early season form has largely escaped attention as he pushes for a return to the Origin arena.

He suited up only five days after undergoing surgery to fix a badly dislocated finger which saw a bone pop through his skin - and is winning the support of a man considered almost a lock to make his Blues debut.

“He probably is the forgotten man in that arena,” Campbell-Gillard said of Merrin. "It is probably up to the selectors and Freddy with what they want to do.

“I thought that was one of his quality games he played on the weekend [against Newcastle]. That is the type of player Mez is. I think he ran for nearly over 100 metres in the first half and I feed off things like that.”

Recent Topics

Support our community by clicking here and joining our Forum Support Scheme