The “scary” extent of Ivan Cleary’s illness that could have derailed Penrith Panthers’ title defence

Sunday was undoubtedly one of the greatest days in Ivan Cleary’s life.

After years of hurt in Grand Finals as a player and a coach, he joined an elite group of players by guiding his Penrith Panthers side to a second consecutive Grand Final win.

Making this even sweeter was the family connection as his son again starred in the final as he did last year.

The two have to be one of the best father-son combinations in rugby league history and between them could be considered the best coach and best player in the game at the moment.

However, things could have been very different in 2022 for Cleary as he suffered with illness throughout the year.

Speaking to the Syndey Morning Herald, his wife Bec just how bad things got for Cleary as he suffered with blood clots in his lungs.

“He was struggling. He could hardly walk, he was very sick.

“Then he got the blood clots, that was pretty scary. If they hadn’t got that when they did, who knows what could have happened?

“He’s never ever missed a day of coaching, whether he’s sick or not. This year I knew how sick he was because he couldn’t go to work.

“He was just on the lounge all day, asleep on the lounge. He was really sick, sick as I’d ever seen.”

According to Zerotackle, in this time Cleary tried to go his job even then monitoring training sessions on crutches as now departing assistant coaches Andrew Webster and Cameron Ciraldo led the way as they prepare to take on their own head coach roles in 2023.

Cleary battled back from illness and despite this, the Panthers only lost four games all year and he got to taste glory again at the end of the year.

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