Ivan Cleary’s regret leading into Souths game

NRL Rd 9 - Rabbitohs v Panthers
Panthers players say they struggled to get up for the South Sydney game in the first half due to a lack of atmosphere at Accor Stadium. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary concedes he should have made the call earlier in the week to rest his son, but he has confirmed star halfback Nathan Cleary will return next week after he missed the big win over South Sydney in a game that lacked any atmosphere.

The premiership-winning playmaker missed three games with a hamstring injury and made a successful return in Townsville last week, but the club decided to be cautious and rest him on the back of a five-day turnaround.

Brad Schneider came in and did an excellent job as he helped spark their comeback after a sluggish start, but the Panthers coach says he should have made the call on his son much earlier than Wednesday when it was agreed that he’d miss the game.

NRL Rd 8 -  Cowboys v Panthers
Nathan Cleary returned missed the Souths game as a precaution. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

“He did everything (during the week). We didn’t do much, but he did (train),” Ivan Cleary said.

“We should have made the call earlier based on the situation we were in. It was always going to be difficult coming back from a hamstring injury playing in Townsville and then five days later trying to back it up.

“That was my fault.”

Cleary praised his side’s “very professional” win over the Rabbitohs who started on fire to jump out to a 12-0 lead but fell apart as the premiers piled on the final 42 points.

It was always going to be tricky against a team that replaced its coach, and it didn’t help that they played in front of a nearly empty Accor Stadium.

“You could tell there was a real lack of atmosphere out there,” Cleary said.

“It just had banana skin written all over it, so at halftime we just corrected a few things, and in the end our defence sorted us out because we didn’t start the second half that well.”

NRL Rd 9 - Rabbitohs v Panthers
The Panthers ran away with it in the second half to silence what was already a very quiet crowd. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The Panthers are used to playing in front of rowdy home crowds, but the vibe was very different with just 8155 fans turning up on a cold Thursday night to watch the Bunnies play.

You could hear a pin drop at times, with the home fans going very quiet once the Panthers kicked clear.

“It’s definitely different. We probably didn’t realise how much there’d be a lack of (atmosphere) until we actually got out there for warm up,” skipper Isaah Yeo said.

“They said there were 8000 (fans) out there, but there were probably half that.

“You’ve got to try to make sure your communication and connection is really good, so we tried to focus on that.

“With no atmosphere, we probably started a little flat and then we had a bloke sin binned and we let in two quick tries.

“I was pretty proud how we came back on top of that.”

Winger Sunia Turuva might call Accor Stadium home next year if the Wests Tigers decide to take games to Olympic Park.

“When we went out there, we could hear each other talking,” he said.

“At packed out stadiums, you can’t even speak to the guys next to you so it was a bit of a weird one.”