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Captain Cleary full of praise for first mate Schneider's poise

Nathan Cleary has paid tribute to his deputy Brad Schneider as the star halfback returns this week fit and ready to tackle the Origin period.

Returning for his first game since Round 3 after overcoming a hamstring injury, the premiership-winning halfback said he took an extra cautious approach knowing the busy few months that lie ahead with just over four weeks until the Blues head into camp for Origin I.

But Cleary said a silver lining that came from his time on the sideline was watching new recruit Schneider get his opportunity in the No.7 jersey.

“If the hammy was at the end of the year I would have probably come back earlier but I didn’t want to rush it and didn’t want it to be a recurring thing,” Cleary told

“That’s the main reason for taking time with it was knowing how long the season is and with the Origin period just around the corner, I wanted to be fit, firing and playing my best footy but also confident it’s going to hold up.

“I’m really stoked for Brad, he put in the hard work during the pre-season and really earnt his spot.

“It was no shock to me that he slotted straight in and did a really good job because being able to train alongside him and talk to him about the game, I can see he reads the game really well."

NRL Fantasy focus: Nathan Cleary

Schneider has done a solid job steering the ship in Cleary’s absence, with a 2-1 record since taking the reins, including an impressive win over the Roosters in his Round 4 club debut.

With Cleary having previously battled shoulder and hamstring injuries in the 2022 and 2023 seasons, ready-made replacements is something Penrith have nailed in the past with Sean O’Sullivan and Jack Cogger proved vital to their premiership campaigns.

While O’Sullivan and Cogger impressed enough in their time to earn contracts at the Dolphins and Newcastle, Schneider arrives with an added opportunity to also join the race for Jarome Luai’s jersey in 2025.

“We’ve been blessed over the last couple of years with our halfbacks in Sean O’Sullivan and Jack Cogger. And with Schnitty [Schneider] here now taking over the reins and doing such a great job, it’s really cool to see,” Cleary said.

“I wasn’t really surprised how well he slotted in after seeing the work he did in the pre-season.

“Having trained alongside him and talk to him about the game, he can see it all really well. So it was no shock to me that he slotted straight in and did a really good job.

“I don’t see why he couldn’t slot into that jersey. Jarome missed a fair bit of the pre-season and Brad and I were playing alongside each other and trying to build that combination.

“He’s obviously a different player to Romey but I think we’ll be able to adapt and work to each other's strengths.”

Schneider looking slick

Leaving the Raiders in 2023 to take up an opportunity in the Super League with Hull KR, Schneider admits his career was at a crossroads before he was offered an opportunity to join the Premiers in the off-season.

The Townsville junior said after seeing the development in O’Sullivan and Cogger’s careers, the decision to train alongside three-time premier playmakers ‘was a no brainer’.

“When I was over in England, I didn't really know what I was doing but when they came to the table, it was an amazing opportunity to be able to learn off the likes of Nathan and Jarome,” Schneider told

“Seeing the success of the past two that had been here before me, It's definitely something that attracted me to the club.

“Just seeing how they developed, how they improved their games and what they've gone on to do in their careers as well.

“The biggest thing is I want to improve my game and I’m definitely doing that being here.”

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.