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Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.

Ivan Cleary believes modern day rugby league players are no different off the paddock to past generations but today's world of social media makes them more vulnerable than ever before.

Kick-off in Sunday's Battle of the West clash couldn't come any quicker for Cleary after a difficult two-week period amid the well documented sex-tape saga that caused the club's culture to come under fire.

Cleary fronted for his final press conference of the pre-season on Saturday and continued to answer questions about off-field issues in the game.

He took a swipe at those who have had an opinion on the current turmoil the code has endured in recent months.

"Probably the most frustrating thing for me is the number of people involved in the game that have criticised the game," Cleary said.

"I've heard a couple of things about the culture needing to be changed in rugby league whereas the people saying that are actually part of the culture, so I don't necessarily agree with that.

"From my perspective, and I've been in the NRL for almost 30 years, rugby league players haven't changed.

Panthers player Tyrone May.
Panthers player Tyrone May. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"The environment has definitely changed and today's player is more aware than ever before.

"But they're still rugby league players. If they've always been the same and you're involved in the game and want to criticise it then you need to take responsibility for being part of that culture.

"That's what culture is, I'm involved in it and everyone's who has played the game is involved in it – coaches, players, administrators and journalists - we're all part of rugby league."

Penrith's squad members escaped the controversies of last week with an extended break that was already planned prior to details emerging of the club's off-field issues.

A focus on round one has been at the top of the club's agenda since the players resumed training.

"It was very important [to get away], if anything the timing of not having to play that weekend was good," Cleary said.

"It's definitely had its challenges and of course it's going to be distracting. The evidence on the field and how we've trained in that two-week period I've been happy with.

"There's often difficult times along the way. Our pre-season has been really good and enjoyable. Most of our players have got good enough preparation to give themselves a chance of having a great season."

The Panthers are bracing for more wet weather in Sunday's season-opener with up to 20-40 millimetres expected to fall throughout the day.

The club was on track for a sell-out crowd until the weather intervened, leaving tickets still available for the clash.

"It will change things a little bit, often in round one everyone is focusing on the basics. If anything the weather is like what we trained in today it helps," Cleary said.

"It doesn't help the fans but they'll turn out anyway which is good."

Panthers hooker Sione Katoa is a late withdrawal from Sunday's match with concussion, with Wayde Egan to start in his pace.

Cleary is in the fledgling stages of his second coaching tenure at Penrith after stints with the Warriors and Wests Tigers.

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