Divided loyalties in Cleary house
Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary joked it was about time his old man finally got a job as the 19-year-old rookie fronted the media to talk about the upcoming encounters in the household now that father Ivan was appointed head coach at the Wests Tigers.
Cleary still lives at home with his family and insisted it was business as usual despite the events that unfolded on Monday which saw his father take the reins at Concord for the next three and a half seasons.
Rugby League fans will have to wait until August to see the two do battle when the Panthers host the Wests Tigers in Round 22, but for now both clubs' clothing apparel will be thrown in the wash together.
"It was actually my brother’s birthday so we had a dinner and a bit of a celebration… the family is pretty happy at the moment," Cleary said on Tuesday.
"I'm 100 per cent really happy for him and hopefully they (Wests Tigers) can play well this weekend to celebrate.
"I think it will just be the same as it always has been… nothing really changes now, except the fact he has a job.
"There will be a bit of banter about but it should be fun."
The major discussion will come at a time when Cleary is off-contract at the end of 2019, but he said the premature talk of joining his dad in the future was the last thing on his mind.
"The only time I’ve ever been coached by him (Ivan) was in my under-six soccer team," he said.
"He was pretty ordinary actually I think.
"So I don’t know how it would go but I’m very happy here at the moment and it hasn’t really crossed my mind.
"He's always said that he will help me out, and I'm really appreciative of that.
"Just because he’s coaching another team doesn’t mean he cannot help me out with little aspects of my game."
Starting off the season with two wins and three losses is not ideal for the Panthers, who were beaten by a clinical Melbourne Storm outfit despite enjoying 58 percent of possession and offloading at will in comparison to Craig Bellamy's side.
"It was one of those games that I think the scoreboard didn’t reflect the game but there is definitely a lot we can take out of it," Cleary said.
"Melbourne is the benchmark and down in Melbourne they’re really hard to beat.
"It’s just about the opportunities… when Melbourne give you those opportunities you need to take them. We didn’t do so on the weekend and we came away with a loss.
"Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater have been doing it for ages now and they’re obviously so clinical in what they do and are definitely some people to look up to… they’re just freaks.
"It was a big learning curve for me and I took a lot out of that game.
"I take all the responsibility. It’s my job to guide the team around the park and get us across the try line. I didn’t do that on the weekend and hopefully I can bounce back."
Taking on the South Sydney Rabbitohs in their Round 6 encounter won't be an easy task despite putting the Knights to the sword in their previous appearance at Pepper Stadium.
The Bunnies are coming off a 14-point loss to the Cowboys in Townsville last Friday night but have won five of their last seven against the Panthers.
"They’re a great team and they’ll be a tough test on Friday night," Cleary said.
"We have a lot of areas to improve on and hopefully we can do that. We need to be really diligent at training and work hard and when those opportunities come up we need to take them with both hands.
"We’ve got a lot of improvement to do and we know that. I think if we just work hard at training it should start to show on the field.
"It’s only early in the season but we’ve definitely got a few things to improve."
This article first appeared on NRL.com.