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Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary.

Captaining his side, returning from his first major injury and being coached by his dad for the first time in 15 years – Nathan Cleary quietly confronted all three without a second thought on Saturday night.

Penrith left plenty wanting more in a dull 20-0 loss to arch-rivals and round one opponents Parramatta in their final trial, but Cleary could at least take home an impressive trio of accomplishments.

He emerged unscathed from his first hit-out since reconstructive ankle surgery late last year, not thinking about his injury at all until he was put on ice at halftime.

At the same time, it then dawned on the NSW Origin half that father Ivan, in his first return to the home coach's box since being axed by Penrith late in 2015, was actually coaching him.

"It just felt normal," the younger Cleary said.

"I didn’t really think about it on the field until he was talking at half-time. He just feels like a coach in here and my dad outside of here.

Alexander excited by Cleary combination

"It happened in under-six soccer, that's about it. I think this is a bit different. But this is a cool experience and I’m looking forward to stepping into it".

Cleary senior's "terrible" junior soccer coaching is apparently "why he's a footy coach now".

Despite celebrating his 21st birthday just four months ago, and heading into only his fourth season of first grade, Nathan had no hesitation accepting a 2019 co-captaincy role from his old man.

While James Maloney talked, repeatedly, with the officials throughout the loss to Parramatta, Cleary is one of six skippers Penrith will call on throughout the season.

He joins Maloney, Isaah Yeo, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, James Tamou and Josh Mansour in the club's leadership group, with the expectation being that he is well placed to interact with younger Panthers teammates.

"Dad kind of spoke about it with me and brought it up out of the blue, Cleary said.

"I was obviously pretty pumped about it and honoured to be listed in that group.

"He gave me reasons for why everyone was in the group and it made a lot of sense, and we were happy to roll with that.

"I think the main idea is there is a bit of youth with me and Dal, and we connect with different parts of the group better than certain people.

"The fact there's not really a standout captain at the moment allows us as group to come together and work on different decisions and what not and we all have a different role in that leadership group.

"I think being the halfback of a team I've got a bit of leadership in that anyway so it's important that I’m a leader in this team and I need to be as a halfback".

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