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Cleary backs Cogger to succeed in halfback role

Ivan Cleary has backed Jack Cogger to fill the Panthers halfback role left vacant by Nathan Cleary’s hamstring injury.

Speaking after scans revealed his halfback had suffered a hamstring tear during the victory over St George Illawarra on Sunday, the coach admitted he was relieved the injury wasn’t worse.

 “I thought it could have been worse. I knew it was pretty bad,” Cleary said.

“It was never going to be a grade 1.”

According to Cleary, the most surprising thing for him was the nature of the injury, with Nathan having no previous history of hamstring issues.

“It was a bit of a shock because he’s never really had an injury like that,” he said.

“You don’t want to see any player, but obviously including your son, particularly in such a big part of the season [be injured]. He was so keen for Origin 2, but it’s just not to be.”

Ivan Cleary discusses the impact of Nathan's injury setback

Despite the injury, Cleary revealed that Nathan was still looking for ways to help the team while on the sidelines for the next six weeks, including joining him in the coaches box.

“He can start his coaching career,” Cleary joked.

“He’s already thinking of ways to help ‘Cogs’ (Cogger) out, so that’ll be good.”

After representing the Australian Schoolboys in 2014, Cogger made his first grade debut for Newcastle in 2016 before joining Canterbury in 2018, playing a total of 42 NRL games before joining Huddersfield in the English Super League in 2021.

Jack Cogger becomes Panther No. 616

Following his two-year stint in England, Cogger returned to Australia with the Panthers at the start of 2023, playing in the World Club Challenge against St Helens. He was forced to bide his time playing in the Knock-On Effect NSW Cup until becoming Panther number 616 against the Dragons at BlueBet Stadium.

“Back in the Schoolboys days, he was actually better than Nathan, he was ahead of him in the same age group,” Cleary said. “I’ve been watching Coggs for a long time because of that. He’s just sort of had a different journey.”

“He does play a little differently as well, but he’s come here for that role, understood that, I guess plotting for this opportunity all throughout the season.

“I thought he did really well to be thrown into the battle other night and that will only help him for what’s coming, starting with the Roosters this week.”

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.