SHOULDER RECO SIDELINES GUN PANTHER
PENRITH’S title defence has suffered a blow with champion halfback Nathan Cleary facing up to six months on the sidelines and likely to miss the 2022 premiership opener.
The Clive Churchill medallist is booked in for a shoulder reconstruction this week and faces the same length recovery that grounded Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston and
Newcastle’s Queensland Origin ace Kalyn Ponga.
Cleary has shown amazing toughness, overcoming a twin shoulder dislocation and labral tear, first suffered in Origin II on June 27, to lead the Panthers to their gutsy 14-12 grand final win over Souths on Sunday night.
But Penrith’s breakthrough title under Ivan Cleary will come at a cost, with the coach’s classy playmaking son almost certain to miss the start of its premiership defence in a blow to the quest for back-toback crowns.
The best-case scenario would see Cleary return in four months, wiping out his pre-season and leaving him underdone for Penrith’s round 1 clash next year.
At worst, he could face the same exhaustive rehabilitation road as his Maroons Origin rival Ponga, who was sidelined for six months and returned in round 5 this year.