In a big week of player re-signings and milestones, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary is firmly focused on the task of beating Cronulla at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday night.
With the news of Liam Martin extending his deal until 2027 and Mavrik Geyer joining the club’s top 30 until 2025, as well as Scott Sorenson’s 100th first grade game, Cleary has his team focused on the challenge of a Sharks side looking to bounce back following a run of poor performances.
Not that he buys into the talk about Cronulla’s struggles against top 8 teams.
“I haven’t really made that much of it,” he said.
“I’m just worrying about what they deliver against us.
“The Sharks are dangerous, full stop. Doesn’t matter what they’ve done recently, they’re one of the best attacking units in the competition.
The Sharks are dangerous, full stop: Cleary
“They’ll be right on edge, which probably makes them more dangerous.
“I really respect their team, I respect Fitzy (Craig Fitzgibbon) as a coach and what they’ve been out to do this year and they’re right in the mix. Looking forward to a really tough challenge.”
With Scott Sorenson set to make his 100th NRL appearance against the club he debuted at, Cleary spoke highly of what he’s done since joining the club in 2021.
“Obviously he’s a great guy, first and foremost, but also a super reliable teammate who has just grown so much since he’s been here,” he said of the backrower.
It's very special to play 100 NRL games: Sorensen
“I feel like we were a bit lucky to get him in the first place. It was one of those situations where it just kind of happened. I remember the first day when he walked in here, he was so impressive and nothing’s really changed since then.”
Cleary also spoke of Sorenson’s determination to stick with his NRL dream after coming close to leaving the game at the end of 2020.
“It just goes to show that not everyone comes through a pathway and junior footy and comes out an NRL player. It’s hard to get into in the first place and even harder to stay.
“He just keeps working away and got what he deserved.
“He obviously just signed here for another three years. I’m looking forward to him playing another 100 games for the Panthers.”
With Sorenson having extended his contract last month, Cleary reiterated his confidence that both Dylan Edwards and Jarome Luai would stay with the club.
He also praised Liam Martin and Mavrik Geyer following the news of their re-signings during the week.
“[Martin] is a quality player. He’s come through the system,” he said.
“He loves the Panthers and you can see the way he plays, he keeps getting better every year.
I'm grateful to be in a team like this: Crichton
“I don’t think he was ever really going anywhere, hopefully the same with Dyl.
“Mav’s sort of worked his way through, he’s a different style player than his father. It’s been a bit of a slow burn from him.
“He kind of had to find himself a few years ago in terms of whether he really wanted to play footy or not. He did that and the last few years has just been working away in the background, learning his trade and his craft.
“I think next year will be his year where he should debut and hopefully once he’s in, he shouldn’t come back out.”