Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary and West Tigers coach Ivan Cleary.

Panthers bracing for a family feud

Things are about to get weird in the Cleary household with Ivan and his ever-improving Wests Tigers set to travel to Penrith to take on his son, Nathan, in a game the Panthers must win if they want to stay in the playoff race. 

It's a scenario the game hasn't seen since Bob McCarthy's Gold Coast Chargers took on a Bulldogs side featuring his son, Darren, 28 years ago but it's one the rugby league world has been waiting for ever since Ivan joined the Tigers in April. 

Things have been relatively normal at home where Nathan still lives with his father but that will change once Ivan gets back from Queensland following his side's impressive win over the Titans.  

"He's not home from the Gold Coast so we'll see. We'll have a bit of banter [when he gets back]," the Panthers halfback said on Monday morning. 

"I don't think I've ever versed him in anything but there might have been some competition in backyard footy when I was younger. 

"I don't think it'll have too much of an impact on our lives but it'll be pretty funny. 

"I'm just trying to think of it as any other game with any other coach, but it does make it a bit weird because my dad knows my game the best and he's going to be the one trying to take me down."

 


Ivan has been an ever-present figure at games since Nathan made his NRL debut last year in Melbourne and hasn't shied away from handing out pointers to his highly-gifted son, but don't expect the pair to exchange tips leading into Sunday's contest. 

"He's always giving me feedback on the little things in my game and I'm very appreciative of that," Nathan said of his father who was at Pepper Stadium last Thursday to watch him steer the Panthers to a much-needed win. 

"We both enjoy our footy so we're always watching every game each week and we'll talk about that."

If you thought there would be a strange dynamic between the pair then spare a thought for Mrs Cleary who must sit on the fence to appease her husband and son; the latter keen to stay away from his father's cooking. 

"I don't know if he'll cook anything for me this week. I'll have to leave that up to mum," he laughed. 

"She's sitting on the fence at the moment. She doesn't know who to support so I think she'll be the equaliser throughout the week."

The family rivalry won't stop there with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak set to mark up against older brother Malakai on Sunday afternoon.

The siblings played a handful of games together back in New Zealand with Dallin playing four years above his age group just to be with his brother while the pair managed one NRL game together back in Round 6 in what was Malakai's sole appearance for the Panthers. 

It'll be a strange scenario for Dallin who always looked up to his older brother but will be tasked with trying to stop him this weekend. 

"I've always looked up to him so it's going to be weird playing against him," the Panthers winger said. 

"It's going to be interesting because we haven't played each other since the backyard. It's going to be a fun night for the both of us and our family. 

"We've always been the type to want to play together and we did get that chance at the start of the year against the Rabbitohs. It's going to be very weird running out against him but I'm sure we're going to give it our best and try to give it to each other. 

"It was always me and my other brother against him because he was the bully. We tried to outnumber him so it'll be good to go up against him with a full team.

"I think my parents and my family are doing up a jumper that's one half Tigers and one half Panthers. I think this is bigger for them than it is for Malakai and me."