You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary remained lost for words about the moment he was able to present his son Nathan the Clive Churchill Medal for best on the ground in Sunday's 14-12 grand final win

Nathan went from fearing his NRL Telstra Premiership campaign was over in July due to a shoulder injury to being the difference in ending Penrith's 18-year title drought at Suncorp Stadium.

After a much-publicised and messy exit from the Wests Tigers in 2018, where Ivan left the club to coach his son, the turnaround to be able to present the prestigious medal on the big stage left him still short of words hours after the result.

"That was completely out of this world, I didn't know I had to do it, I don't know how to explain it," Ivan said.

"In many respects daily he's part of the team, captain and player, but I think we've always been able to be father and son.

He's still my boy: Ivan reflects on his relationship with Nathan

"That's why I wanted to coach him in the first place. We went through some hard times there a few years ago where I felt a bit guilty and his form wasn't where it could've been.

"But when the siren went and I saw him out there, he's still my boy."

Cleary was instrumental in the victory, booting three goals but, more importantly, setting up many of Penrith's attacking raids as he played through the pain of a shoulder injury he has been carrying in recent months. 

Nathan Cleary awarded Clive Churchill Medal

He was emotional after the game, embracing his father as they both celebrated their first Telstra Premiership trophy.

The pair are the second father-son Panthers combination behind John Lang and Martin Lang to win a title at the club.

"It was unbelievable, it's a lot more than just the Clive Churchill Medal, I thought a number of people could've got it from our side," Nathan said.

"But just to be able to win a premiership with Dad, especially the way it started off.

"It was a tough year in 2019 and people wrote us off and said it wasn't the right thing to do.

"But now I share this moment with him and it definitely makes it all worth it. We had trust in each other and this group to do something special and we've done it.

"It's hard to put into words, I've dreamed of this moment since I was a little kid.

"It was all about staying present and taking it one set at a time, the scramble at the end was unbelievable.

"I want to say thank you to all the guys. We did this for Penrith."

Cleary, who will undergo shoulder surgery in the coming days and is likely to miss the start of the 2022 season, was relieved to make amends after suffering grand final defeat last year.

Cleary reveals real extent of Penrith's walking wounded

The halfback said fears his season was over lasted "two minutes" when he first found out the prognosis. 

"I can't thank our physios enough for the work they've put into me," Cleary said.

"They've been super positive. As soon as they said that, that's what it was going to be.

"It's actually not been that bad, when you compare it to some other guys in the team. They've been absolute warriors and have been dealing with a lot more worse stuff than I have."

Retiring commentator Peter Sterling paid Cleary the ultimate tribute by declaring the halfback produced one of the greatest-ever kicking performances in the result.

Courage to the fore in the eyes of Ivan

"He kicked South Sydney into submission," Sterling said in one of his final addresses on Channel 9.

"Grand finals are won by pressure and apart from the missed tackle for Cody Walker's try, he was pretty much faultless.

"You need a cool head and need a No.7 who knows how to handle these situations and I thought he got everything so right tonight.

"He's 23, he's still learning the game but has experienced so much at a young age. He's gone through Origin series and been through so much pressure as a young player with expectation.

"He's a complete footballer. We saw Craig Young and Dean Young embrace at the end of the game [in 2010] and to see father and son together again like Martin and John Lang, it's wonderful to see."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

View All Partners