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Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary.

When his father Ivan last coached a team to the grand final in 2011, Nathan Cleary reckons he watched from the nosebleeds section of ANZ Stadium.

"Dad didn't get us good seats," Cleary lamented to

Ivan's Warriors lost to the Sea Eagles that day, but on Sunday he'll get another shot at a maiden title when the Panthers face the Storm.

This time Nathan will be right in the thick of the action and influencing the outcome as Penrith's star halfback.

The 22-year-old reflected on some of his memories surrounding the decider nine years ago as he prepares to play his 100th game.

"It was pretty crazy. The thing I remember most was how much it meant to the Warriors fans and stuff like that," Cleary junior said.

"I think there are probably a lot of similarities, I guess, with fan bases from the Warriors to Penrith. They all just love their footy so much. When the team's doing well, it seems like the town's doing well.

"I don't really remember too much of what [Ivan] was like. I just remember game-day. I guess I'll see what he's like this week.

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"It was cool to be there. All the fans did like a Haka before the game too. I think a lot of Penrith fans will be there this weekend.

"I can't wait to see what it's like."

It was only four years ago that Cleary endured a testing NRL debut against his upcoming opponents Melbourne.

He was targeted in defence but stood his ground and completed 38 tackles in a 24-6 loss at AAMI Park.

Nathan Cleary at Panthers training.
Nathan Cleary at Panthers training. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"I just remember they kept running at me. That's all I really remember," Cleary said.

"And obviously it was pretty cool to be able to debut against people like Cam Smith, Cooper Cronk and that.

"It was a bit of a whirlwind of a week. I just couldn't believe I was going to play NRL. It was such a surreal feeling.

"I'm just grateful to reach this far. One hundred games - it's been a crazy journey, a lot of ups and downs already.

"To be able to do it in a grand final, it's crazy."

Jamie Soward partnered Cleary in the halves for his first game in 2016. It ended up being his last NRL appearance.

Then there were two

"[Cleary] always seemed like a cool-headed kid that respected the value of coming through the grades," Soward said.

"It never felt like he'd been given anything, you know what I mean? He never acted like he had to be given anything, he always paid respects to the older guys, listened, trained hard, all that kind of stuff.

"Looking back you saw an old head on young shoulders. His development I think in the last year has been [helped by] learning along the way of James Maloney and hanging around those older guys as a younger kid your whole life in the footy circles.

"And now, it seems like he's 30 and been here a thousand times before. I saw a real maturity at such a young age and he's able to now hopefully turn that into a grand final win for the Panthers."

Soward, who played 215 matches and won the 2010 premiership with the Dragons, was struck by Cleary's assured demeanour.

"Some kids come in and debut and they're nervous," he said.

"He came into I think the hardest place to play on debut, the halves, and the confidence that he had and got from the team straight away showed.

"They went on a run later that year and ended up making the eight and getting themselves into the second week of the finals. He showed that maturity early on that I'm not sure everyone has.

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"And it's hard now for halfbacks because you want them to be Nathan Cleary, but there's only one Nathan Cleary.

"I don't think you can hold the horses back too long. I wouldn't say he pushed me out, but if he's the guy that pushed me out at the end of my career then I'm pretty happy to say it was him."

For his part, Cleary credited his family with passing on the measured traits that have propelled his success.

"Dad and my Mum have instilled that [maturity] in me from a pretty young age. Especially Dad, I think it's his characteristics," he said.

What better way to thank him for that than with a premiership?

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.