Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has openly expressed a desire to coach his son Nathan at some stage of his burgeoning NRL career.
In an exclusive interview with NRL.com, Cleary stressed the Tigers are not devising any plans to extricate Nathan from Penrith to the Concord-based club.
But the 46-year-old was also not hiding the fact he wanted to work with his son in the future.
Nathan Cleary, who turned 20 this week, is contracted to the Panthers until the end of 2019. The pair have already discussed the possibilities from then onwards.
“Basically we’re both coming to the opinion that we’d like to play together. It’s just a question of timing really,” Cleary Snr said.
“He’s still got two years to go at the Panthers and I think that’s good for him. He’s not in a hurry to decide that, but we both realise that this situation is a pretty unique opportunity.
“I was always conscious of never wanting to put him in a position that compromises him being up front.
“But the further (his career) is going I’m getting more confident it won’t be a problem. But we’re not thinking about it too much right now. Probably in 12 months time it will be more relevant.”
From November 1, 2018, Nathan will be free to talk with other clubs, a situation now facing another of the game’s rising stars - South Sydney forward Angus Crichton.
Crichton is off contract after the 2018 season and his manager is already fielding offers from at least two clubs in addition to the one on the table at Redfern.
Cleary topped the NRL in points last season with 228 (11 tries; 92 goals), well ahead of Dally M Medal winner Cameron Smith (192).
Cleary also led the NRL for kicks in play with 324, 37 clear of runner-up Mitchell Pearce. He was also the Panthers’ leading try scorer, beating Kiwis winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (nine), Matt Moylan and Tyrone Peachey (eight each).
A reunion of the Clearys at the one NRL club would mean the first father-son combination since John and Martin Lang at Cronulla and Penrith (2002-04). Chris and Jarrad Anderson also linked at the Sharks in 2003.
Cleary Snr is preparing for his first full NRL season as coach since 2015. He was sacked by the Panthers in October of that year – eight months before Nathan made his NRL debut.
The young halfback will have a new scrum-base partner in Cronulla premiership-winning five-eighth James Maloney, who is finalising a three-year deal with the Panthers from 2018.
Ivan Cleary is more than comfortable with the 31-year-old representative star playing a crucial role in Nathan’s development.
“A week is a long time in rugby league but a year is an age. So it’s a really good thing for Nathan to work with someone like Jimmy. I’m very happy with that,” he said.
This article first appeared on NRL.com