Panthers coach Ivan Cleary will swap the clipboard for a beer as he watches tonight’s first State of Origin in Adelaide.
With six Panthers, including son Nathan, in the New South Wales side, Cleary will be watching as a fan and father first, and a coach second.
“I’m just a spectator,” Cleary said.
“I get out of there and enjoy myself, have a couple of beers to take the nerves out.
“I’m a little bit protective from a coaching point of view because I really want them to win. Not just because I’m a New South Welshman and all the boys that I coach and my son are.
“But I understand the repercussions if New South Wales don’t win and where they’ll be aimed at.”
Origin will influence Panthers team selection: Cleary
With Stephen Crichton a late call-up to the starting side following Latrell Mitchell’s withdrawal, Cleary has backed him to do the job for the Blues. The expectation that Crichton and Brian To’o will line up on the left edge for NSW instead of their regular right edge isn’t something that Cleary sees as an issue.
“Those guys have both done that before,” he said.
“It’s a pretty good situation where Critta has been playing well this year and down in camp, getting reps in throughout the camp and then fits straight in between two of his clubmates.
“He’s really worked on his game over the years in many ways and mentally is certainly a big one.
Origin I is upon us!
“These days at 18th man you can be called upon not only during the week as has happened, but also during the game, so you’ve got to be switched on and could end up in different positions as well.
“He’s reacted really well to it and sees it as a great opportunity.”
Even though he’ll be watching as a fan, Cleary will be keeping a keen eye on the Panthers on the field, with all six of them named to back up on Sunday evening against the Dragons.
He has a contingency plan if any of the Origin players can’t back, with the likes of Jack Cogger, Luke Garner and Tom Jenkins all refreshed after being rested from last weekend’s NSW Cup match in Auckland.
In addition, Izack Tago, Spencer Leniu and Matt Eisenhuth have all been included on the extended bench as they near their respective returns from injury.