Nathan Cleary detail in Panthers victory leaves rival NRL fans in disbelief

The best player in the game was on hand to watch the performance.

Rival NRL fans have been left searching for answers over who can stop the Penrith Panthers after they manhandled the Roosters without Nathan Cleary in a title statement. The Roosters entered the clash against a Cleary-less Panthers outfit - who were also missing James Fisher-Harris - at home with close to a full team.

However, other than a late fightback, the Panthers dominated a hapless Roosters outfit with Dylan Edwards outshining James Tedesco in the battle of the fullbacks. Panthers Five-eighth Jarome Luai was also at his best having danced across the field on numerous occasions to leave the Roosters defenders chasing shadows.

Nathan Cleary watches on as Dylan Edwards celebrates.
The Penrith Panthers' display against the Roosters without Nathan Cleary has sent a warning to other clubs. (Getty Images)

And with Cleary set to return after the Panthers' bye round, fans have been left questioning who will stop the reigning champions from completing a fourth straight premiership? Not only did Luai shine in Cleary's absence, 23-year-old replacement halfback Brad Schneider performed with aplomb.

Schneider wasn't afraid to get his hands on the ball and proved the coaching system at the Panthers helps everyone excel. Coach Ivan Cleary couldn't answer why halves come into the system and perform at Penrith, but admitted the leadership and culture has a lot do with it.

“All three are good players and good people, and I just think the rest of the team all do their job as well,” Cleary said after the match when asked about the system. “I don’t know if they see it as a bit of a challenge as well, we’ve got great leadership here and everyone just does their job.

“Whether you’ve got Nathan or Fish (Fisher-Harris) or Sorensen or whoever else in there, it’s all the same, we play as a team and everyone’s together. Maybe that’s how it works.”

And fans couldn't help but joke Cleary could find it hard getting back into the No.7 jersey after the team's performance on Thursday night. Others admitted it was a 'scary' showing from a team missing arguably the best player in the world right.

Nathan Cleary set to miss a few weeks with injury

Cleary was ruled out of the clash against the Roosters after hurting his hamstring in the NRL grand final rematch last week. While Cleary appears to have only suffered a minor strain, he dealt with a troublesome hamstring in 2023. This injury ruled him out of State of Origin Games II and III for the Blues. He also missed rounds 15 to 20 last year with a hamstring injury.

Nathan Cleary runs.
Nathan Cleary (pictured) is set to miss a few weeks with a hamstring injury. (Jason McCawley via Getty Images)

While reports suggest Cleary could be back as early as next week, the Panthers could choose to rest him and he would return after the bye in round six. Considering the Panthers didn't miss a step without him against the Roosters, coach Ivan Cleary could opt to rest the halfback for as long as possible. Although this would hinder his chance of winning his first Dally M medal, which is on the cards in 2024.