Cleary admits: 'This will be pretty weird'
This day has been looming large on Ivan Cleary's radar as the weeks have passed by and the Wests Tigers coach has admitted that coaching against his son Nathan next Sunday will be "pretty weird".
Ahead of their clash with a Penrith team within reach of a place in the top eight Cleary's men will be buoyed by a performance against the Titans on Sunday that the coach says could have been their most complete since he took charge in April.
The Panthers' 36-2 defeat of the Tigers in Round 2 was the beginning of the end for former coach Jason Taylor and there are a raft of intriguing undercurrents to the rematch at Pepper Stadium next Sunday, not least of which is Cleary Snr and Jnr facing off for the first time in the NRL.
Not since Bob McCarthy coached the Gold Coast Chargers against a Bulldogs team boasting his son Darren 28 years ago has a father coached against his son in first grade and it didn't take long after the Tigers' 26-4 win on the Gold Coast for attention to turn to what is to come in the Cleary household this week.
"He might be grounded this week. His bedroom's a disgrace," Cleary joked of the 19-year-old superstar living under his roof.
"I've been thinking about it a bit the last couple of days. We've just got to enjoy it really.
"I've got to say that I haven't really been looking forward to it because it is pretty weird on a number of fronts. Going back to the team that you coached before for the first time and your son's playing in there.
"At least I know a lot about the opposition halfback and I know a fair bit about the Panthers too.
"I've basically watched just about every game for the last six years so we won't have to work too hard on the scouting report this week.
"We've spoken about it. It's all good. He's got a job to do, I've got a job to do so that's what we'll do."
On Sunday Cleary's Tigers did a job on a Titans team with their season on the line and captain Aaron Woods said his side is just as determined to cause a major disruption to the Panthers' finals hopes on Sunday.
Defying a recent record that has yielded just one win from their past 10 games, Wests took control of the contest early against the Titans and maintained their stranglehold for virtually the entire 80 minutes.
A 4-0 half-time score was not a reflection of their dominance but rather than fade in the second half as they had done in recent weeks, they all but put the Titans to bed with two tries in the first seven minutes of the second half.
"They're vying for a top eight spot so we can go out and knock teams off, that's a big plus for us," Woods said of the team's motivation heading into the clash with the Titans.
"The boys get excited about it and it starts with Penrith next week as well.
"I think they're two points away from the eight so we get to play some footy and we want to take it to them for the whole 80 minutes."
In their past four losses the Tigers had either been leading or trailing by only two points at half-time but been unable to find a way to back up their efforts in the second half.
The young squad never looked like faltering against the Titans however, giving Cleary the confidence that what they have been working on is coming to fruition.
"It's about the second half anyway and it certainly has been for us," Cleary said of their half-time advantage.
"We've been working pretty hard getting that right and we really started the second half with a bang and went on with the job.
"For young players it's the hardest part of the game to learn, that concentration for long periods and under fatigue.
"And in the second half all the plays are bigger. Every play is a big play in the second half.
"There's certainly a lot that as a coach you can recognise, which is a good sign."