Who will take injured Nathan Cleary’s place at Panthers

With the news boom halfback Nathan Cleary will be rubbed out for up to ten weeks, you could be forgiven for thinking Penrith would be scrambling for a replacement, but Panthers General Manager of Football Phil Gould says the club has “got a couple of options”.

The Panthers were dealt a double blow on Friday night, going down to the Bulldogs 20-18 after Cleary failed to take the field after halftime, having suffering a Grade 3  MCL injury to his left knee.

The youngster had pulled the strings for the Panthers in the first fortnight of the competition, seeing the team pull off two come-from-behind wins.

“Tyrone May, who would have been the automatic choice, did his cruciate last year, he’s not back for another month or so – I think around Round 8 he’ll be back,” Gould said.

“Tyrone Peachey went there on the weekend, did a really good job.

“We’ve got a rookie, Jarome Luai, who went really good in reserve grade last week. He’s been in our 20s and reserve grade program for a few years now and, if not now, when?

“So it’s up to the coach to make a selection there.”

As to which of the options Gould considered the man most likely, Gus said, “I would say probably he’ll go with the rookie, but we’ll see what happens.”

Gould was also optimistic regarding Cleary’s rehab.

“He’ll do all the hard work. Maximum, I think, ten weeks but I’d back him in seven or eight,” Gus said.

The Panthers supremo also talked up the State of Origin hopeful’s toughness, revealing Cleary had played with the injury for 20 minutes:

“He reluctantly went off at halftime, the doctor talked him into it, he didn’t want to come off – very tough boy.”

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