'Embarrassing': Fans divided over Nathan Cleary's grand final honour

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·Sports Reporter
·5-min read
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Fans were critical of the decision to hand Nathan Cleary (pictured) the Clive Churchill Medal for best on ground, despite overwhelming support. (Getty Images)
Fans were critical of the decision to hand Nathan Cleary (pictured) the Clive Churchill Medal for best on ground, despite overwhelming support. (Getty Images)

NRL fans have taken aim at the decision to award Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary the Clive Churchill Medal after a number of stats emerged from the grand final.

Cleary took out the Clive Churchill Medal as the man-of-the-match in what was a gripping final game of the NRL season.

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Yahoo Sport Australia gave Cleary the highest player rating score after his kicking game and calm head helped steer the Panthers to grand final success.

However, many viewers took to social media to point out some of Cleary's defensive mistakes during the penultimate game could have cost the Panthers.

Cleary missed nine tackles throughout the match.

One included the crucial miss on Rabbitohs star Cody Walker as he fended off the halfback and raced through for a try.

Others claimed Matt Burton, workhorse Isaah Yeo or fullback Dylan Edwards should have received the award.

But, of course, there were plenty of fans complimentary of Cleary's brilliant kicking game that pinned down South Sydney for large parts of the game.

Regardless of what the pundits thought, Cleary won the award and is already pathing his path to greatness.

The Penrith co-captain still has potentially a decade at the top level ahead of him, despite being 23 years old, but has a resume to suggest he's on track to become an all-time great of the game.

As well as his premiers' ring and Clive Churchill Medal, Cleary has appeared in four State of Origin campaigns for NSW, twice finished runner up in the Dally M medal count and was last year's RLPA Players' Champion.

"It's special. It's not about us but it's special," Cleary said.

"A lot of people wrote us off but now to do it it's crazy.

"I have been dreaming of this moment since I was a little kid.

"I was so grateful to play one NRL game and then to win a grand final is crazy, to do it with dad and the people I've grown up with is special."

Nathan Cleary receives huge praise from legend

Panthers legend Greg Alexander was one great that saved some special praise for the young halfback.

Alexander also alluded to Cleary's shoulder injury, which he carried into the game, which made his performance even more special.

“Nathan Cleary made some crucial tackles at the death there in that final five minutes,” Alexander said on Fox Sports commentary.

“To do what he’s done, with one arm is just ... I can’t even explain what he’s gone through and the fact that his one arm is just hanging off his body. It’s just strapped together. To do what he did tonight ... the kicking game of Nathan was superb.

“... The tendon was torn 80 per cent so it was just hanging. They tried cortisones (injections) to try and sort of shock it into some scar tissue, to strengthen it a little bit, but I don’t think much of it worked. He just strapped it up and got on with it.”

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