Cleary tips son to click in Tigers clash

Steve Zemek
Penrith's Nathan Cleary is tipped to hit the ground running in his return from injury

Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary predicts son Nathan will hit the ground running as he attempts to prove his fitness to NSW mentor Brad Fittler over the next two weeks.

Penrith halfback Nathan will make his NRL return from a seven-week lay off due to a knee injury against his father's side at Panthers Stadium on Thursday night.

Beside the competition points, there's more than just bragging rights in the Cleary household on the line, with Nathan well and truly in the race for a maiden State of Origin call up.

Ivan shrugged when asked if two matches was enough time for Nathan to prove to Fittler and fellow selectors that he was ready to be thrown into the Origin arena after a lengthy stint on the sidelines.

However, he expected Nathan would show few ill effects and be able to find form quickly.

"I haven't been watching him train, I thought about sneaking around and trying to watch," Ivan said.

"He looks fine. He's pretty keen.

"They know what they're doing out there (at Penrith), they wouldn't put him out there unless he was right to go.

"Having said that, whoever's been out for a long injury, it takes a bit of time to get going. But I'm pretty sure he'll click into gear pretty easily."

Ivan said he would put his conflicting emotions aside.

While he was nervous for his son in his first game back from a medial ligament tear, he wanted his side to pressure him like they would any other No.7.

"It doesn't matter in terms of what our boys do," Ivan said.

"I don't deliberately go out and target anyone.

"But the players are smart, they understand there are certain players they need to pressure at different times. I don't need to say too much about that.

"But as a father, it's definitely conflicting, there's no way around that.

"It is what it is. It's a bit of professional integrity. We've both got jobs to do, so that's what we'll do."

Penrith coach Anthony Griffin suggested veteran five-eighth James Maloney would retain the goalkicking duties despite Cleary's return, and urged his in-form veteran to continue being the primary playmaker.

"It's important for Jimmy to keep doing what he's been doing," Griffin said.

"We don't need to change too much. Nathan's obviously been out for 7-8 weeks. So for him, it's important that he just gets in and gets through the game and gets his confidence back."