Cleary ready to step up without Luai

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Nathan Cleary has declared his desire to lead Penrith towards the NRL finals in form as they begin their run to September without Jarome Luai.

Luai was spotted in a brace again at Panthers headquarters on Wednesday, with the five-eighth likely to be sidelined by a knee injury until just before the finals.

Penrith now find themselves in a similar position to what they did at this point last year, when both their halves were injured before State of Origin III.

While their attack briefly took a hit, Luai eventually returned to ensure the Panthers would finish in the top two, before Cleary battled through a shoulder injury in the final four rounds.

And it is not lost on the halfback that he will now get the chance to repay Luai in the next month.

"I want to lead from the front at any stage. Now we have a couple of injuries coming up, even more so," Cleary said.

"It's a good opportunity for us, a great challenge.

"I think we're better prepared than what we were last year. The hole we had last year came earlier in the Origin period.

"This year the boys who played handled it really well and we came out of that with two wins when the Origin players weren't playing."

Playing without Luai will be something new for Cleary.

He has not entered a game without his junior teammate as his halves partner since the end-of-season Origin, while at club level it dates back to James' Maloney's days in 2019.

In Luai's place will be Sean O'Sullivan, another Penrith junior but one Cleary has not yet combined with at NRL level.

The run also begins in Friday's blockbuster against Parramatta, the only side to have beaten Penrith so far this year.

"It will be different (without Luai), but Sully has shown this year he can fill a role really nicely," Cleary said.

"(Luai and I) know each other's games pretty well.

"We were lucky we got to play in juniors together and then we had a little break.

"It's definitely a good combination and sometimes we just have to give each other a look.

"(O'Sullivan) will play a different role in the team but we can utilise his strengths."

Fellow co-captain Isaah Yeo was also confident Penrith are better placed at this point in 2022 than in last year's premiership season.

"We've at least got one floating around (this time)," he said.

"Obviously it's been discussed. We'll obviously have to change a little bit there.

"Romi and Sully are different players, there's not many players who bring what Romi brings to our team.

"He's really important, but it probably puts a little more onus on other players to ensure they're performing well."

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