If 1991 Panthers premiership winner Royce Simmons had his way, Nathan Cleary would be wearing Australia's No.7 jersey at season's end.
"I'm probably biased, but I'll put my hand up and say he's the best," Simmons said ahead of the club's 30th anniversary celebrations of their 1991 premiership win on Friday night.
Cleary's form in the opening month of the season is mirroring his efforts from last year when he helped the Panthers to 17 straight victories in their run to the grand final.
"You don't do that unless your man at the top who's steering you around the park is on his game every week," Simmons continued.
The former Panthers captain stood tall alongside his modern-day counterpart on Wednesday ahead of the club's 30th anniversary celebrations and spoke glowingly of the halfback.
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While flattered by Simmons' words, wearing the green and gold was far from Cleary's mind.
"I'm just trying to play well each week and try to be consistent but if that honour did come it'd be pretty awesome and a dream come true," the halfback said.
Cleary's next mission is to limit the attacking prowess of English star George Williams and NSW teammate Jack Wighton.
"Having two ball-running halves is always going to be challenging and Jack is probably the best ball-running half in the comp so I think they work pretty well together," Cleary said.
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"George Williams is super underrated as well. He's a really good player, he takes on the line and he's got some subtleties in his game, he's got a really good kicking game as well.
"His running game is the most dynamic thing about him."
The return of Josh Hodgson also has the Panthers on high alert with the England hooker missing last year's corresponding game due to an ACL injury.
The Panthers have won five of their past seven games against the Raiders and are eyeing five wins in a row to start a season for the first time in the club's history.
"They've got stars across their team and one of the best forward packs in the competition so we're going to have to be on our game to win it but it's a good challenge," Cleary said.
Cleary made a successful return from a head knock suffered in round two with a resounding performance in last week's demolition job of the Sea Eagles.
"It was good to be back, I'm a terrible watcher of my own team playing and felt like I was a fan watching the game the week before.
"I was in the box carrying on and jumping up and down but the way we played was very enjoyable."
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