Cleary ready to shoulder GF responsibility

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His shoulder has held up through the back half of the NRL season and Nathan Cleary is in no doubt it is going to be just fine for one more game.

Cleary feared his 2021 campaign was over when he hurt his shoulder in NSW's State of Origin II victory in June.

The 23-year-old avoided immediate surgery, and despite ongoing management, returned in mid-August to lead the Panthers into a grand final for the second straight year.

As he aims to redeem last year's premiership decider defeat to Melbourne, Cleary has dismissed any concern his shoulder will hamper him against South Sydney on Sunday.

"It's actually feeling really good and ready to go," Cleary told AAP.

"When I first did it, it was kind of hard to deal with because it was obviously the elation of just winning the Origin and I was so pumped with that.

"I'd never really had a shoulder injury before so I didn't know what was wrong with it.

"After getting the scans there was a bit of negativity floating about that it could be the end but that's another credit to our physio staff. They were positive straightaway, they nutted me out a plan and once I got told that it was full steam ahead and never looked back."

Cleary said the journey back to a grand final began as soon as last year's match ended, with the pain of that defeat a key motivator during the Panthers' pre-season.

He also feels a more challenging season in 2021 than that of last year's had developed a greater resilience among the Panthers' players.

"It's been an entirely different journey but I think that just makes it a bit more special," Cleary said.

"It's obviously been a different year as well with Origin in the middle of the year - that's been a new concept to a lot of our boys.

"We had to move up here (Queensland) and we've been very lucky up here too so yeah it's been a crazy year.

"Different injuries, form slumps, things we've had to get through and then obviously losing week one too was a battle but very grateful and lucky to be back."

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