Sport Defiant Cleary Defends Controversial Pre-Season Plan Despite Another Panthers Loss

17:52  11 june  2021
17:52  11 june  2021 Source:   sportingnews.com

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Ivan Cleary has defended his decision to rest five Origin stars in the Penrith Panthers’ 19-18 loss to Cronulla on Friday night.

NSW Blues interchange forward Liam Martin was the only Panthers star to back-up from Wednesday’s interstate clash in Townsville.

Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Isaah Yeo and Kurt Capewell all watched on from the sidelines as the Panthers suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time in 22 months.

Speaking post-match, coach Cleary stood by his call to rest his representative stars and revealed it was part of a plan hatched during the pre-season.

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“They’re all good, they all wanted to play but just in the long wrong it’s best for them,” Cleary said.

“We pretty much made that decision when the draw first came out.

“It was only made harder when the (Origin) game moved (from Melbourne) to Townsville and we had so many guys playing as well.

“If it’s good for one it should be good for all of them and it’s in their best interests that they rest.

“… Obviously the (Origin) players are good players but you saw in the second half, there was nothing wrong with the team we had.”

The Panthers remain in top spot on the NRL ladder despite the loss but will drop to second position if the Storm beat the New Zealand Warriors by 18 points or more on Sunday.

Pressed on whether he has any further plans to rest his stars during the Origin period, Cleary replied: “This is probably the hardest one, two days after the game, the other ones, we get a bye after the second game … we’ll see how that all goes.

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“… Banking a few wins at the start of the season obviously helps, but it’s a long season and we just thought in the interest of the long term it just wasn’t worth the risk and I feel pretty confident that we’ll benefit from that later.”

The Panthers trailed 18-0 at the break but roared back with three unanswered tries from the 56th minute to draw level with nine minutes remaining.

But off-contract Sharks half-back Shaun Johnson ended the Panthers’ comeback with a long-range field goal in the 78th minute.

“I was disappointed with our first half, I thought we were beaten in intensity really and the Sharks were good enough to take advantage of some possession and momentum,” cleary said.

“But yeah, disappointed with some of the tries we conceded and as I said I just felt like we were just beaten in intensity and little bit of effort too in that first half.

“Happy with the second half, we could have easily won the game but we probably lost it in the first half … we feel like we kind of butchered that one a bit in the first half.”

Cronulla Sharks pip Penrith Panthers 19-18, Manly Sea Eagles thrash North Queensland Cowboys 50-18 .
A Shaun Johnson field goal in the 78th minute gives Cronulla a 19-18 win over Penrith, while Manly shows it can win without Tom Trbojevic via a 50-18 thrashing of North Queensland.In Friday night's earlier match, Manly showed it could win without Tom Trbojevic via a 50-18 thrashing of North Queensland at Brookvale Oval.

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