'Out of this world': Ivan, Nathan Cleary's beautiful NRL moment

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·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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Nathan and Ivan Cleary celebrate with the premiership trophy after Penrith won the NRL Grand Final.
Nathan and Ivan Cleary became the second father-son duo in Panthers history to win an NRL grand final. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

After three years of trying, Ivan and Nathan Cleary have finally done it.

The pair became the second father-son duo in Penrith Panthers history to win a premiership together, following John and Martin Lang's 2003 triumph.

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All the doubt and criticism that followed Ivan's first season in charge of Penrith in 2019 was washed away as he presented his son with the Clive Churchill Medal following their sides 14-12 grand final win over South Sydney.

The younger Cleary was instrumental in the breakthrough premiership victory, which healed the wounds of last season's brutal loss to the Storm.

For both father and son, to have the chance to win the premiership together was a feeling almost beyond belief.

"It's not about us but it's special," Nathan said of winning a title with his dad.

"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."

Ivan was similarly overwhelmed, having been at the centre of fierce criticism after his messy departure from Wests Tigers in 2018 to coach his son at the Panthers.

After some pain and their fair share of rugby league heartbreak, Ivan said it was an 'out of this world' feeling to present his son with the Clive Churchill medal.

"That was completely out of this world, I didn't know I had to do it, I don't know how to explain it," Ivan said.

"In many respects daily he's part of the team, captain and player, but I think we've always been able to be father and son.

"That's why I wanted to coach him in the first place. We went through some hard times there a few years ago where I felt a bit guilty and his form wasn't where it could've been.

"But when the siren went and I saw him out there, he's still my boy."

Nathan and Ivan Cleary on cloud nine after NRL grand final victory

In July, the playmaker's season looked in tatters as he suffered a shoulder injury while steering NSW to a State of Origin game two win that sealed a series win at Suncorp Stadium.

Three months later Cleary raised the premiership trophy at the same venue on Sunday night, capping a remarkable tale of resilience.

Clearly hardly missed a beat after his club's medical staff saved his season by opting for rehabilitation rather than immediate surgery.

He was in the thick of it in the grand final, orchestrating the Panthers with a calm head and sublime kicking game, forcing four line dropouts to keep the blowtorch on the Rabbitohs.

Nathan and Ivan Cleary embrace after winning the 2021 NRL grand final. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Nathan and Ivan Cleary embrace after winning the 2021 NRL grand final. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

While off-season surgery almost certainly awaits, Cleary will savour the moment after Penrith overcame last year's grand final loss to Melbourne with their first title in 18 years.

Ivan Cleary claimed the premiership in his 370th game as a coach, becoming the only man to win a title for the first time after their 250th game.

He admitted an underwhelming campaign in 2019 created some doubt about whether he'd made the right call.

"We went through some hard times two years ago when I felt a bit guilty and his form wasn't where it could have been," Cleary revealed.

"But in the end I think that helped.

"When the siren went and I saw him out there, it's all about ... He's still my boy."

With AAP

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