Cleary shuns NRL captaincy talk under dad

Matt Encarnacion
Nathan Cleary is enjoing the "unique experience" of being coached by his father in the NRL

Penrith star Nathan Cleary has shied away from any talk of taking the captaincy next year, saying it would lead to suggestions of nepotism.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since his father Ivan's controversial return to the NRL club as coach, Cleary was not expecting to be named skipper next season.

"I think that'll be a bit of favouritism, there'd be a bit of controversy about that," Cleary said on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old admitted being coached by his father felt "weird" initially, but he was relieved to put the long-running saga surrounding Ivan's return from Wests Tigers behind them.

"It got pretty bad at stages. Any time your family name gets brought into disrepute, it's not a great time," Nathan said.

"I'm very happy (now). I think more than anything, my mum and siblings are more stoked because me and dad are immune to it now.

"We're in the game and that's what comes with it.

"But for my little siblings and mum to go through all that, it was tough on them. Now that it's all over, everyone's happy and looking to get on with it now."

Nathan has only previously been coached by Ivan when playing soccer in the under-6s, where he was a "terrible" mentor.

"That's why he became a footy coach," he said.

Having penned a new deal with the club until the 2024 season, the NSW Origin halfback relished working with his dad in what he described as a "unique experience."

Ivan is also contracted for the next five years.

"It's the whole trust aspect," Nathan said.

"I've grown up with dad and trust is a lost thing in football. There's not much around. It's good to have that with your coach. I think it'll be a good experience."

Nathan was also confident his relationship with his father would not impinge on those with his teammates.

"That's the relationships you build with your teammates," he said.

"We're all pretty good mates and get along well. If something wasn't going right, I'd expect them to be honest with me and that's just how it is."

While Nathan is unlikely to be appointed captain, Ivan is yet to make a call on whether to replace James Maloney and Isaah Yeo, who shared the duties in 2018.

Veteran playmaker Maloney said he had only just begun to embrace a leadership role last season.

"Ever since I got here last year it was something I've realised, being one of the more senior guys," he said.

"It's natural - you have to become a leader and lead them around. It's something I'm still developing, I've had 12 months now hopefully improved in some areas."