Nathan Cleary, after kicking the game-levelling goal and then the game-sealing field goal against Wests Tigers, sauntered into the dressing sheds.
The reception from coach and father Ivan was much warmer than what he received just a few weeks earlier.
“I got a big hug when I walked in,” Nathan Cleary said. “It was better than being brushed after the first round.”
Thus ended what must have seemed to the Cleary clan the longest build-up to a game ever. Josh Mansour, noting the ceaseless commentary surrounding Ivan coming up against the club he walked out on, quipped: “The Tigers are like an ex that wont go away for him.”
Undoubtedly, the pair were under pressure. Penrith has invested $10 million into a father-son combination that had so far failed to fire in 2019 and it appeared, right up until those fateful moments at the death, that the joint-venture outfit had their measure.
Cleary jnr, seemingly under the pump to retain his NSW No.7 jersey, then stepped up with the two plays that mattered. In doing so, a much-needed victory was secured and the focus will undoubtedly shift elsewhere.
Afterwards, Nathan summed up the situation in just three words. “Winning solves everything,” he said.
“Me and Dad spoke about that during the week, we just needed to get a few wins on the board and that was a real gritty one.”
Nothing seems to rattle the Clearys, but there were plenty of sleepless nights for Nathan in the build-up. When his head hit the pillow, he replayed over and over the way he thought the game would go down, a clutch field goal to split the sides.
“Ive thought of that kick a thousand times, over and over in my mind,” he said.
“Ive dreamt about it. [Practised it] down at the park a million times when no one was watching. Im just grateful it went over.
“We needed that.”
The Tigers are like an ex that wont go away for him.
It was heartbreaking for the Tigers. They had been the better side for most of proceedings and led up until it mattered. They had more ball, better field position but couldnt ice the game.
“I didnt lose faith at all,” said Panthers winger Mansour. “We never do as a team.”
“Our backs were up against the wall this week leading up to the game. There was a lot on Ivan this week, we wanted to play for our coach.
“We wanted to play for him and also for each other.
“There was obviously a lot of emotion coRead More – Source