After serving his two-week suspension, Penrith Panthers playmaker Nathan Cleary was brutally sledged by the Bankwest Stadium staff.
After serving his two-week suspension, Penrith Panthers playmaker Nathan Cleary was brutally sledged by the Bankwest Stadium staff.

Uncomfortable NRL sledge strikes a nerve

Nathan Cleary insists he never considered stepping down from his leadership role at the Penrith Panthers despite causing a stir over his social distancing NRL suspension.

Cleary made a solid return from his two-game ban in Friday's loss to Parramatta, orchestrating a 10-point lead before the team faded in the second half to go down 16-10.

The Eels did their best to remind Cleary of his indiscretion when they played Blinding Lights by The Weeknd, the song he was busted dancing to on Tiktok, and he admitted the barbs from Parramatta fans struck a nerve.

"I actually didn't notice that, but my second kick I had the Parramatta supporters yelling out TikTok the whole time," Cleary said.

"That sent a tingle down my spine. I don't like hearing that, but it is what it is."

It's a reality the 22-year-old is expecting to face in the future, however he remains determined to mature into his role as a leader in the club. He again conceded he had done the wrong thing by flouting social distancing laws on Anzac Day, which also resulted in a $1000 fine from police.

Nathan Cleary made his NRL return on Friday.
Nathan Cleary made his NRL return on Friday.

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Five women received $1000 police fines for ignoring government protocols. However, after video emerged of Cleary in TikTok videos with the same group, the NRL slapped him with a two-game ban and $30,000 fine for being "untruthful".

"Everyone's trying to find who to ridicule things with. There's always trying to find the negative and things like that," Cleary said.

"It's no different to anything I've dealt with in the past."

But stepping down from the club's leadership group didn't enter his mind.

"It was definitely something I wanted to keep," Cleary said.

"This could almost be a building block for me to move forward past this and become better, not only as a person but as a leader. That's what I want to do.

"On the field I'm always going to be a leader. I've got the No. 7 on my back.

"(But) off the field I've got a fair way to go. Leadership's bloody tough and I'm working hard on it."

Although they were unable to unearth a single point in the opening half, the Parramatta Eels have secured their fifth-consecutive NRL victory with a stunning comeback.

The Eels retain their spot at top of the ladder, winning the opening five matches of an NRL season for the first time in 34 years.

- With AAP

 

Originally published as Uncomfortable NRL sledge strikes a nerve


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