- Stewart Moses
Emerging Blue puts contract talks on hold
The long-term playing future of Nathan Cleary is unlikely to be resolved any time soon after the Penrith halfback confirmed he will defer contract talks until the end of the 2018 season.
The confirmation comes in the wake of recent comments made by Phil Gould AM, on radio sports program “The Big Sports Breakfast,” where the Panthers Executive GM revealed he would not pursue Cleary for a new deal and that it was up to Nathan to re-commence contract talks.
Cleary, who was attending last Saturday's Emerging Blues camp hosted by new NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler, said that he hadn’t given his playing future much thought despite comments made by his father, Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary, that revealed his desire to coach his son sooner rather than later.
“I’m really loving it there at the moment (at Penrith) and haven’t really thought about going anywhere else,” Cleary told Nepean News.
“I’ve still got two years on my contract so I’m 100 percent committed to Penrith at the moment.
“I just want to get through the rest of this year first and then at the end of the year we’ll start talking about contracts.”
Whilst many experts predict the 20-year old will make his Origin debut later this year, Cleary was pleased just to have been invited into camp alongside Panther team-mates Dylan Edwards and Moses Leota.
The former Australian Schoolboy was also excited to finally get the opportunity to work with boyhood idol, Andrew Johns as well as Fittler, who coached Nathan in last year's City Origin side as well and other Origin greats.
“I’m obviously very proud to be named in this squad and I’m really looking forward to getting out there and getting some training done especially with Joey (Andrew Johns),” Cleary declared.
“I kind of idolised Joey since I was a little kid and to be able to work with him today is pretty cool. “Knowing Freddie also helps for days like today and you’ve also got Danny Buderus there as well.
“They are some of the best NSW players of all time so to be able to work with them is awesome.
“I am just looking forward to the opportunity this (camp) presents and show them what I can do.”
In recent years, the NSW hierarchy have been criticised for not picking players whose form demands Origin selection.
But Cleary is confident that with Fittler taking over the coaching reins, players who play at their best have a much better chance of being rewarded with Origin selection in 2018.
"Freddie's obviously going to pick the best team (on form not reputation) and so he should," Cleary responded.
"That is what NSW needs. The best players picked at the time they are playing at their best."
In just 41 NRL games, Cleary has already had five halves partners - Bryce Cartwright (18 games), Matt Moylan (8), Tyrone May (7),Te Maire Martin (7) and Jamie Soward (1).
But with fellow club halves partner James Maloney having commenced training with Penrith for the first time last week since joining the club, Cleary is looking forward to some much needed stability in the halves as well as learning off the two-time premiership winner in order to be Origin ready.
“This was his first week this week and I’ve already learnt a lot off him even though we’ve had just two field sessions,” Cleary said.
“Jimmy is obviously a great player who has done everything in the game.
“He’s won comps, played Origins and for Australia too.
“So it will be really good to have that (stability) and I am really looking forward to not just learning off him but seeing on the field how he can play a dominant role given he’s been there before.
“When it really gets down to the crunch, he knows what to do and that’s the parts of my game that I want to improve on.
“If we can get off to a good start this year, and if I’m playing well then I will feel a bit better if picked for Origin.”
Photos: 77 Media (Note: 2nd photo courtesy of NRL Photos)