Nathan Cleary has expressed optimism regarding Jarome Luai‘s potential for continued involvement with the Penrith team, hinting at their collective drive to mirror the consistent top-tier performance seen by Melbourne within the NRL. Cleary also voiced hope regarding his father, Ivan, being awarded with the prestigious Coach-of-the-Year title, having been overlooked for the past two years.
Cleary displayed exceptional prowess in his second game after recovery from a hamstring injury against Cronulla, making him an invaluable asset for the Premiership champions in Friday night’s anticipated blockbuster match against Storm at BlueBet Stadium.
Discussions have increased regarding Luai’s future involvement with Penrith post-2024, sparking uncertainty about a potential offer. Despite parting ways with his management, there have been speculations linking Luai to Canterbury and Coach Cameron Ciraldo.
However, Cleary, in conversation with this publication, expressed belief that he could persuade his long-time on-field halves partner to continue with the club. Acknowledging that lucrative offers elsewhere might lure Luai, Cleary highlighted the irreplaceable value of being part of a club with solid prospects for winning multiple premierships.
He stated, “We’ve ridden this rollercoaster together, he’s one of my great mates, he’s like a brother, so of course I want him to stay. I never want to lose ‘Romy’. I’m confident we can keep him.”
Panthers have bagged the title consecutively for the past two years, with visions of maintaining their winning streak, even upon losing Viliame Kikau, Api Koroisau, Matt Burton, and Kurt Capewell due to cap pressure. Stephen Crichton and Jaeman Salmon will depart later this year.
Additional notches in the achievements of the coaching team include Cleary’s assistants, Ciraldo and Andrew Webster, taking up prime positions at Canterbury and the New Zealand Warriors respectively. This speaks volumes about the coaching unit’s spectacular accomplishment despite not gaining the coach-of-the-year recognition.
Circling back to the coach-of-the-year discussions, Cleary acknowledged the exceptional works of Webster and Walters, but emphasised on Ivan’s overlooked efforts in fostering an on-field successful team with a commendable culture. He stated that Ivan’s contribution is greatly valued by the team, regardless of the formal Coach-of-the-year acknowledgement.
Reflecting upon his recent return post-hamstring injury, Cleary drew similarities with his comeback from a five-match suspension in 2021. He was recently awarded with the player’s player recognition last week, and an image honouring this achievement now proudly hangs outside the Panther’s gym. Cleary humorously revealed his father’s awareness to not push him too hard post-return.
Discussing his injury, Cleary acknowledged his experience with the hamstring injury was distinctively different to his previous suspension. He expressed gratitude at his current condition, considering the severity of the injury could have been much worse. Cleary highlighted the value of proper rehabilitation in avoiding recurrence. He stated that while sidelined due to the injury, he gained greater appreciation for his team’s hard work, technical proficiency and interdependent relationships. These shared experiences have played a crucial hand in their on-field performance and success.