Ivan Cleary makes startling Nathan Cleary admission as Panthers breeze through 'danger game'

The Panthers coach says Nathan Cleary will be back in round 10.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has confirmed star halfback Nathan Cleary will return from his latest hamstring issue to face the Bulldogs in round 10. The halfback was pulled from the side to face South Sydney just a day out from Thursday night's match despite making it through their captains run.

Cleary appeared to pull up fine after a tough-fought 26-20 win in round eight and looked a certainty to play in round nine. But in a shock to the NRL world, the Penrith coach opted for Brad Schneider to lead his team at No.7 against the bottom-placed Rabbitohs on Thursday night.

The reigning premiers decided to take a cautious approach to Cleary's fitness, after he reportedly felt some tightness in his hamstring after the round-eight away game against North Queensland. The Panthers staff ultimately decided the five-day turnaround was too risky and named Schneider instead.

Pictured left Ivan Cleary and right Nathan Cleary
Ivan Cleary has confirmed that Nathan Cleary will be back in the Panthers team in round 10. Image: Getty

Cleary's understudy during his initial injury lay-off, Schneider, was again instrumental in the Panthers' 42-12 win against Souths. And speaking after the match Cleary was full of praise for the halfback who he admits was unfairly thrown in at the last minute.


"That's on me (pulling Nathan Cleary last minute), we should've made that call earlier," Cleary said. "We wanted to see how (Cleary) would go yesterday, hoping he'd get through it without any dramas.

"In the end, it just seemed to be too much risk. Brad came in and had done zero reps this week, or the week before, so I think he did pretty well." When asked if the Panthers star would play in round 10, the Penrith coach simply replied: "Yes".

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 02:  Brad Schneider of the Panthers makes a break to score a try during the round nine NRL match between South Sydney Rabbitohs and Penrith Panthers at Accor Stadium on May 02, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Brad Schneider was instrumental in the Panthers' 42-12 win against Souths on Thursday.

Despite almost the entire NRL already chalking up a Panthers win before the players even took the field on Thursday night, Cleary admitted that it was a game which he viewed as a danger game. But despite the Panthers coach's fears, he had little to worry about as the last-placed Rabbitohs did not put up much of a fight after taking a 12-0 lead early.

It was a performance that epitomised the Rabbitohs' lacklustre season as injuries, errors and lapses in concentration quickly led to their strong start becoming a distant memory. The 42-12 Panthers win was a strong showing as a whole and following the match Cleary admitted he was relieved that they got the win.

"It just had banana-skin written all over it tonight," he said. "I thought we just stuck at it and grinded our way through that game."

Souths' life under Ben Hornby couldn't have gotten off to a much worse start on Thursday night, with the Bunnies' 30-point loss topped off by injuries to fullback Jye Gray and Dean Hawkins. Gray's ankle injury is set to rule him out of action at least for next week, while Hawkins picked up a quad injury that will also likely see him have a stint on the sidelines.

Hawkins clutched his quad and winced in pain after kicking the ball from a restart, following a Penrith try in the first half. And the No.7 is likely to be sidelined for at least a couple of weeks.

Reflecting on the defeat, Hornby said the performance was "clunky" but believes the injuries played a large part in the performance, with players forced to play out of position. "I just don’t know what we’re going to pick next week with the injuries we’ve got, so we just have to sit down with the rest of the staff and see what we can come up with to get the result we want," Horny said post-match.

with AAP