Penrith Panthers rookie Taylan May has defended himself in the wake of an assault charge levelled against him by Queensland Police, saying he was coming to the defence of teammate Nathan Cleary.
May has been charged with assault occasioning bodily harm relating to an incident that took place the week after Penrith's NRL grand final win last season.
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The 20-year-old is believed to have dragged a man to the ground in the altercation, which was investigated both by police and the NRL Integrity Unit.
Despite the incident, the younger brother of former Panthers player Tyrone May remains eligible for NRL selection, scoring seven tries in four games this season so far.
"A 20-year-old man from NSW has been charged with assault occasioning bodily harm. He was served a notice to appear," a Queensland Police statement said.
"He will next appear in Caloundra Magistrates Court on May 18 in relation to an incident on October 8."
Since being charged though, May has opened up about the incident, saying he was coming to Cleary's defence after an overly belligerent pub patron started hassling him.
“Anyone in my position, if they’re a good friend, they would have done what I did,” May told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I stuck up for Cleary. I don’t think I was in the wrong.
“I didn’t want the situation to escalate. (My teammates) are big names, I’m a nobody . . . the security were on my side.
“The situation for me, it doesn’t really faze me. I’ve put it behind me and just focused on the game.”
May, who indicated he is likely to plead not guilty to the charges, has enjoyed the support of the Panthers throughout the ordeal.
head coach Ivan Cleary said the lack of action taken against May by the NRL was an indication the charge wasn't anything serious.
“The fact the NRL haven’t taken any action tells a fair story,” he said during the week.
Cleary desprate for Taylan May to remain a Panther
May is off contract at the end of this year, having already proven himself to be a force in the NRL with seven tries in his first four games.
He is one of several big names to come off contract at Penrith in the next 18 months, with the likes of Stephen Crichton, Brian To'o, Izack Tago and Liam Martin also due next year.
Cleary's new deal that keeps him at the club until 2027 created headlines this week, with the halfback accepting a contract worth around $200,000 less per year than he could make elsewhere.
It means he will technically take a pay cut when his current deal ends in the years between 2025 and 2027, given he was unable to downgrade his salary on his current contract that runs until 2024.
While that won't immediately help Penrith's cap situation and the fight that no doubt looms to keep May, it will assist the larger long-term jigsaw puzzle to retain both him and other players.
Cleary is adamant May is one of those people he does not want to see exit.
"People like him, young kids who come up through the area, we absolutely want people like him playing for the Panthers," Cleary said.
"I love playing alongside him and I'd hate for him to play anywhere else.
"He's been a massive surprise packet for the outside world. He's been doing this for the last few years at training.
"He just needed that opportunity and he's taken it with both hands."
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