Nathan Cleary will ignore social media in anticipation of backlash from Wests Tigers fans as he and James Maloney reinvent their scrum-base combination in a struggling Panthers attack.
All eyes will be on the Cleary clan this week as Penrith host the Tigers outfit that father Ivan spurned late last year, tying father and son to the Panthers until the end of 2023 on multimillion-dollar deals.
It's been an inauspicious start in the Cleary Mach II era.
Ivan bristled at repeated questions around the Tigers grudge match after a hefty 32-2 loss to Melbourne, while Penrith haven't scored a try in almost two hours of footy, with Cleary and Maloney unable to engineer points against the Storm despite enjoying 60% of first-half possession.
Despite still being just 21, NSW Origin half Cleary is well versed in rugby league's soap opera and avoided his social accounts at times last year when links between he and Ivan reuniting, at either the Tigers or Penrith, hit fever pitch.
"I’m used to it now, there has always been speculation," Cleary said.
"The whole of last year it was everywhere. I’ve got a lot better a blocking it out and focusing on my job.
"I haven’t been up to scratch the first three rounds, I have to focus on myself and the team.
Match Highlights: Panthers v Storm
"I don’t try look into that stuff too much. I’ll stay off social media this week.
"Everyone has an opinion and that external noise coming from the outside. We are happy from the inside – not with the performance [against the Storm]. We have to work hard to get our way out of it.
"You have to do it. Social media is where all the noise comes from. We have to focus on ourselves."
Cleary and Maloney's performances in particular will come under the microscope against the Tigers given Brad Fittler's praise of Origin contender Luke Keary on Sunday.
The pair have swapped defensive edges since Cleary began coaching Penrith again.
But Cleary revealed what could be a more significant shift for their combination with ball-in-hand, veteran Maloney taking on more of the organising duties many deem as Cleary's playmaking strong suit.
"Jimmy has gone more first receiver so I can run a bit more and roam around," Cleary said after the loss to Melbourne.
"He is really good in that role. We were playing the opposite way around last year.
"We end up on both sides of the field in attack. Defensively I’m sweet defending over there. It’s combinations with the people inside and outside, they’ve changed up a fair bit.
"It’s only round three. It will take some time to get those combinations right."