(Clockwise from top left) Penrith Panthers halves Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Matt Burton and Tyrone May.
(Clockwise from top left) Penrith Panthers halves Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Matt Burton and Tyrone May.

Brandy backs ‘complacent’ Cleary

PENRITH board member Greg Alexander has backed Nathan Cleary to be a future stand-alone captain despite revealing how the under-fire playmaker also kept his club in the dark.

The 22-year-old's cleanskin reputation continues to take an absolute hammering with NSW Police now fining Cleary $1000 for breaking social distancing rules after the NRL exposed his Anzac Day cover up.

The police fine for "non-essential travel" comes on the back of a two-match suspension and $30,000 sanction from the NRL.

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But Alexander maintains the controversy hasn't diminished his opinion of Cleary as a person.

Cleary’s woes haven’t affected Greg Alexander’s opinion. Picture: Penrith Panthers
Cleary’s woes haven’t affected Greg Alexander’s opinion. Picture: Penrith Panthers

"No, not at all. By no means does this define who he is," Alexander said.

"I still think he is a decent young man, respectful. It doesn't change my opinion of him at all."

But Alexander was also adamant that no one at Penrith was aware Cleary had drove to get the young women involved in the TikTok video and bring them back to his place, information Cleary initially withheld from the NRL.

"No, once we found out that we contacted the NRL immediately," Alexander said.

But Alexander says Cleary also deserves a second chance.

"Nathan says he regrets it, I believe that," Alexander said.

Alexander, an adviser for NSW coach Brad Fittler, also says this should not impact Cleary's chances of retaining his Origin jumper.

"Look, I haven't spoken to Freddy about it but I wouldn't think so," Alexander said.

"He will have served his suspension by round five."

Alexander expects Cleary to be ready for Origin. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Alexander expects Cleary to be ready for Origin. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Alexander says Cleary is "a young bloke who was complacent about the rules of social distancing and he tried to protect himself and he should have just come clean."

Alexander also has no dramas with Cleary maintaining his place in Penrith's leadership group, adding: "I have no doubt he will be a stand-alone captain in the future."

He also has no fears Cleary will allow this to linger on beyond his two match suspension.

Cleary was arguably the NRL's form player in the opening two rounds as he took charge of the Panthers following James Maloney's exit to France.

Coming into the season not many were predicting Penrith to be one of the genuine competition threats but that soon changed after starting with back-to-back wins.

However, there are some legitimate concerns that the fallout of recent weeks could impact for months if Cleary allows it to play on his mind.

It is business as usual at Penrith training. Photo: Panthers Media
It is business as usual at Penrith training. Photo: Panthers Media

In the shortened season two competition games could be crucial to the Panthers' top four hopes.

"It has been almost a month (of controversy), no doubt it has been a testing time for him," Alexander said.

"But he is a pretty resilient young man. If anyone can handle this sort of situation I think it is Nathan.

"His character is much like how he plays. He is a pretty level headed young man.

"There is no doubt it has been a tough time for him.

"It will be very difficult for him sitting on the sidelines for two games after what everyone has gone through. But I don't expect it to have a lingering impact on him."



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