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Panthers coach Ivan Cleary labelled son Nathan's inspirational performance in Sunday's scrappy win against North Queensland "Origin-like".

But as Penrith lead the minor premiership race, Cleary reckons it "can't hurt" that the five-time NSW halfback will avoid the mid-year State of Origin "comedown" with the 2020 series to be played in November.

Nathan lifted in key moments at Panthers Stadium, scoring a try, helping set up two and kicking three goals in the 22-10 victory.

He also produced some heavy hits - one on Coen Hess that forced an error - and made a big play to get out of the in-goal area in the second half as Penrith captured the competition lead.

"I think he probably led the way in refusing to lose. I think he changed momentum in a number of different ways today. Whether he's No.7 or he could've been No.13," Ivan Cleary said.

Cleary seals the win for Penrith

"It was Origin-like, I suppose. I was really proud of him."

The coach said his son had always had a penchant for producing important efforts at crucial stages.

"I think that's why he was picked in Origin as a 20-year-old. It wasn't because he was setting up tries and stuff, it was because he values the little things," Cleary said.

"Dives on loose balls, tackles hard, chases - that kind of stuff. Today he actually realised the opportunity to really make some big plays ...

Panthers: Round 10

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"From a leadership point of view, he definitely sensed we needed something."

The prospect of having his chief playmaker available throughout the whole Telstra Premiership campaign could prove to be a massive benefit.

"All our Origin players talk about how big it is during that period and sort of the comedown afterwards. No one's got to go through that this year," Cleary said.

The mentor, who admitted an upset looked like brewing when North Queensland led 10-4 early in the second half, was pleased with the desire his team displayed.

But while they now sit outright first, he knows they haven't achieved anything major at the halfway point of the season.

"There's no prize [yet], but I guess we've earned that spot through how we've played," Cleary said.

"There's another lesson today in a different style of contest. There were so many things in our favour leading into today's game ... But it does set us up."

Cleary said the Panthers are travelling "potentially a little bit better than I'd hoped" but he was always expecting success.

"Table-wise, I didn't really think about the table. You always, I guess, try to be optimistic and hope things go the way you want to," he said.