There has been so much written about Ivan Cleary ’s move to Penrith – some fact, some fiction – but Cleary has certainly paid for his freedom.
The Tigers and Panthers meet on Friday night at Penrith Stadium and the build-up will be big, even if the clubs don’t want it to be. There was a story doing the rounds in recent times that said the Panthers were paying $400,000 towards Michael Maguire ’s deal at the Tigers by way of compensation because Cleary was still under contract at Leichhardt. I’ve been told that’s not close to the mark.
In fact, it is Cleary who paid for his own freedom. He coughed up $250,000 so he could coach the team he wanted to coach. And be in charge of the destiny of his superstar son Nathan. It’s not likely that Ivan wrote a cheque to the Tigers as an escape fee. He is said to have had the amount absorbed in his Penrith contract to compensate the Tigers for his early departure. It cost him a lot to make the switch to chase his dream of coaching his son.
The move west has taken a considerable toll on Ivan and his family. Nathan is the most unflappable of young men, but he was affected. He got off social media at the time and he has decided against renewing a deal with Fox Sports that tied him to making comments for the network.
When I spoke with Nathan at the start of the season he said there was one particular line of criticism that had particularly irked him. It was pretty tough watching what was being said … it would be hard for anyone,’’ Nathan said.
‘‘Itwas probably hardest on my little siblings and my mum because they were not used to that scrutiny. Me and Dad are used to it. It’s the game that we play and we have to take it on the chin.
‘‘There was one article which said that he was un-Australian for what he was doing. Obviously, I don’t agree with that, but you just have to move forward.’’
Nathan is delighted his dad is onboard. ‘‘The trust between player and the coach is hard to find, but we have that,’’ he said. ‘‘In saying that, it’s almost made it harder for me because everything I do I want to impress Dad. There is probably more pressure on me now, but … I am learning about that as I go and I have to just keep working hard on my game.’’