With James Maloney headed to the Catalans Dragons Nathan Cleary is being given the reigns to lead the Panthers and must do so in 2020.
After a hot start to his NRL career in 2016 Cleary has had a very up and down career in the NRL, with most viewing his 2019 as the latter, however the New South Wales representative did have certain games where he was absolutely amazing, and what’s the common occurrence during those games?
James Maloney either isn’t playing or is not very involved in the game.
Nathan Cleary is very much a half that is only comfortable when he has full control of the side, becoming stagnated when playing second fiddle or sharing the workload evenly with another half.
The 21-year-old has one of if not the best running game for a half in the competition, however when he isn’t in control and doesn’t have the “freedom” to do so he refrains from bringing that huge strength into his game.
During the Panthers’ 54-10 victory over the Newcastle Knights in Round 25 2019, Nathan Cleary scored 4 tries and those came about through him using his rugby league “intellect” and utilising his amazing running game to confuse defenders.
In 2020, he will clearly be the lead half due to his NRL experience over the likes of a Jerome Luai or a Matt Burton.
This means he will have free reign to implement his running game when need be and keep defenders asking themselves the following questions when he gets the ball:
- Will he pass the ball?
- Will he take the ball to the line then look to get the offload away?
- Will he run the ball?
If Nathan Cleary can effectively implement has running game in 2020, he will be the KEY player at the Panthers, will possibly be looking at Dally M Halfback of the Year, a premiership at Penrith and an acclimation that he is the best running half since Alan “Alfie” Langer.