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Nathan Cleary spotted in post-match act after heartbreak in World Club Challenge

The Penrith Panthers halfback showed his true colours after the controversial loss.

Nathan Cleary, pictured here after the World Club Challenge.
Nathan Cleary was spotted signing autographs for fans long after full-time in the World Club Challenge. Image: Twitter/Getty

Nathan Cleary has won widespread praise after he was seen spending a large chunk of time signing autographs for fans after Penrith's loss in the World Club Challenge. Cleary and the Panthers were left devastated after going down 16-12 to Wigan on Sunday morning (Aussie time) in a highly controversial affair.

Despite winning three-straight premierships and five in club history, the Panthers have still never won the World Club Challenge. Cleary had spoken openly about the pain of last year's loss to St Helens at home, and how the Panthers had made it their goal to go one better.

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But it wasn't to be, with a couple of refereeing calls proving costly for the Panthers and sparking outrage in Australia. But despite his heartbreak, Cleary showed his class by sticking around on the field well after full-time to sign autographs and mingle with fans.

One fan posted a photo of Cleary on social media and wrote: "A word on Nathan Cleary. After the game he was the only Penrith player I saw who made the effort to go and thank the fans and he took the time to individually sign autographs and take selfies with them. I thought that was genuinely class of him to do. Shows what a top bloke he is."

Another added: "Game ended half an hour ago, but Nathan Cleary is still here posing for selfies and signing autographs. What a player and what a bloke. Credit to Penrith Panthers and the NRL."

A third commented: "Just shows what sort of person he is. We watched him going round all the fans. He looked frozen but still took the time. Amazing player but lovely guy as well."

Speaking after the game, Cleary said: "That's the thing about this particular competition, we get to see the best teams together, and Wigan were too good tonight. We didn't execute as well as they did. They had three opportunities and scored three tries and that was the difference. They executed better than us and maybe that was enough."

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary added: “Our attack was a little clunky at times, which is not surprising, the first game of the season and quite a few different combinations as well. In three trips in our end, they scored three tries, which is something we don’t pride ourselves on. They took their chances and we didn’t and congratulations to Wigan for doing that.”

Greg Alexander blasts refereeing in World Club Challenge

The Panthers had a mountain of possession and opportunity, but could only manage 12 points against a determined Wigan defensive outfit. But the decision to award a try to Jake Wardle in the second half when the ball appeared well short of the line sparked widespread anger.

The video referee upheld the on-field call of try, despite the ref on the ground appearing to have no idea where the ball had ended up. Taylan May then crashed over in the dying seconds, but the on-field ref sent it upstairs as no try and it remained that way.

Penrith Panthers players, pictured here after the World Club Challenge.
Penrith Panthers players look on after the World Club Challenge. (Sipa USA)

“The video referee performance, especially in the second half with the awarding of the Jake Wardle try, was the worst I’ve ever seen," Panthers great Greg Alexander said on SEN radio on Monday. "The worst video referee decision I’ve ever seen.

“He had the temerity to say there is insufficient evidence to change the on-field decision... he was a foot short. He was a foot short of the try-line. I don’t think you could get a better camera angle to make a better decision on that incident.”

Alexander pointed out that even if the ball had ended up on the try line, it should have been a double movement. “The tackle was over once he was halted, the ball stopped, he was on the ground, that was the end of play and then he sort of pushed it forward,” Alexander said.

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