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Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary is figuring Tyrone May into his plans for the 2020 season as he juggles his hooker and halves combinations.

The 23-year-old utility has to receive clearance from the NRL to play again after pleading guilty to four charges over filming lewd videos without the consent of the people involved.

May is due to be sentenced next month. He missed most of the 2019 season when he was stood down under the NRL's no-fault stand down rule, following police charges being laid against him.

Cleary would not comment about May's case but from a footballing point of view he sees the Samoan international as having a role to play at the Panthers next season.

With James Maloney's departure to Super League, and Wade Egan's move to the Warriors, there are openings at five-eighth and also at hooker to work in tandem with Api Koroisau.

"I don't really want to say definitively who is going to play [five-eighth] but Jarome [Luai] is the front-runner. But Matt Burton has got a really good future ahead of him," Cleary told

"And then we still have Tyrone May ... although I realise his situation is not settled at the moment. I would like him as part of my squad this year and he's another option [in the halves] for us."

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

Koroisau, 27, is returning to Penrith after four years with the Sea Eagles. He has been an 80-minute hooker but more recently shared the role with Manase Fainu at Manly.

"He hasn't done it [played the full 80] for a long time so we'll see how he goes," Cleary said.

"It would be nice if he could, but if he can't we've got Mitch Kenny in the group and that's also where Tyrone May comes into calculations."

At fullback after Dallin Watene-Zelezniak left the club mid-season for the Bulldogs, Dylan Edwards resumed his position at No.1 for Penrith with Caleb Aekins playing three games there as well.

"We've got those two boys and a young kid called Charlie Staines coming through, and we have high hopes for him," Cleary said of Aekins, who was 2019 Jersey Flegg player of the year for the Panthers, as well as playing some Canterbury Cup games.

"We have a few options but we've got two good ones there already."

As far as captain goes for 2020, Cleary said he had not made up his mind despite trying out both models in 2019: a leadership group at the start and then James Tamou solo towards the end of the year.

"I haven't decided yet. But I thought James Tamou did a pretty good job under difficult circumstances.

"So whatever happens he will be a huge part of our leadership. But I'm not making a call on captain yet."

Apisai Koroisau at Manly in 2019.
Apisai Koroisau at Manly in 2019. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

Along with Koroisau, there is another prodigal son back at the foot of the mountains in assistant coach Trent Barrett.

When Barrett was put on gardening leave by Cleary in late 2015, after he signed on as head coach of Manly for 2016, it was assumed the pair had a fractious relationship.

But Cleary says that was never the case and he welcomed back Barrett with open arms for 2020. Barrett will be in charge of the Panthers' attack, while fellow assistant Cameron Ciraldo looks after defence.

"I was keen to get him back but I didn't really know what he was after. I thought he was chasing a head coach's job, or I assumed he would be," Cleary said.

"He wasn't on the radar strongly at first. But then he rang me and we caught up and pretty much straight away I thought 'This is going to work well'.

"I'm really excited. And he's pumped. He's been out of work for a year so even now he's just enjoying being back coaching. He's doing a really good job and the boys are really engaged with him."

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