Panthers provide update on Cleary injury

NRL Rd 3 -  Panthers v Broncos
The Panthers could be without Nathan Cleary for another week after the star playmaker suffered a minor setback in his recovery. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

Panthers players were tight-lipped as to whether superstar halfback Nathan Cleary would return from a hamstring injury this week as the defending premiers look to avenge last year’s loss to the Wests Tigers who “ambushed” them in Bathurst.

Cleary hasn’t played since he limped off late in the grand final rematch having played his best footy of the season in the first half before he succumbed to a hamstring injury for the second year in a row.

NRL Rd 3 -  Panthers v Broncos
Nathan Cleary may miss another week as his hamstring injury takes longer than expected to heal. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

The Panthers were able to beat the Roosters without him but were outplayed by the Sea Eagles a fortnight ago, with halves partner Jarome Luai failing to finish that game but expected to be fine for Saturday’s match.

Cleary was tipped to return after the bye, but there have been reports that he may have suffered a setback in his recovery.

“I’m not sure if it was last week or how long ago it was, but there was a little, tiny setback, but I’m not sure where that sits in terms of his return to play,” fullback Dylan Edwards said.

“Whenever he’s ready, he’ll be ready. He’s not one to sit out an extra week if he’s ready to go. In saying that, hammies are tricky so you’ve got to make sure it’s ready before you’re ready to go.

“Our medical staff are second to none, and he’s well-known to be as diligent as anyone in terms of his rehab.”

NRL Rd 9 - Panthers v Wests Tigers
The Panthers were outplayed in the wet last year in a shock loss to the Tigers. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

The Panthers could get Scott Sorensen back for the game in Bathurst where they were stunned by a Tigers side last year that was winless through the opening eight rounds before they pulled off the upset of 2023 in driving rain.

Luke Brooks dominated with his left boot and Jahream Bula starred out the back, and while the former is no longer at the club, the Tigers have pulled off two terrific wins against Cronulla and Parramatta already this year.

“They ambushed us and they got us,” said Izack Tago, who missed the game.

“We obviously took a lot from that and you could see it in the few games after that. We learnt a lesson from that game.

“They’re going really well (this season) and they’ve got a lot of potential.”

NRL Rd 4 -  Roosters v Panthers
Sunia Turuva could leave Penrith at the end of the season. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

It’s been a strong start to the season for Tago, who has carved up on the right edge and was rewarded with a contract extension, but he could lose close friend Sunia Turuva, who has attracted strong interest from the Dragons.

The Panthers have felt the squeeze on the back of their three years of dominance, with plenty of local juniors forced to move on, and it’ll be hard to compete with the Dragons if they offer him the fullback spot and more money.

“I feel for ‘Tito’ because this is his home club and I know he wants to stay here, but we’ll see what happens,” Tago said.

“It (losing players) has happened for the past few years, but I hope we can keep him.

“I had a few chats to him, but we’ll see what happens.”