Cleary looking to adopt leadership qualities from Maloney

It was a season where Nathan Cleary excelled beyond his years but 2019 again proves to be another opportunity for the Blues halfback to take his game to greater heights but not solely in his on-field efforts. 

Having surfaced as one of the game's elite players after playing just 58 first-grade games and making his Origin debut in 2018, Cleary will be looking to take on more of a leadership role at the Penrith Panthers. 

While it's natural for a halfback to take on a leadership role on the field, Cleary will take on the challenge of helping the younger players in the squad and has the perfect man that can help craft his trade. 

"I think I'm very lucky with Jimmy (James Maloney) there at the moment to just kind of learn off him as much as I can and his leadership aspects," Cleary said.

"I really want to take that part of my game to the next level next year and also nurture the young blokes in the team the best way I can."

 
 
 
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Doesn’t get any better than this. What a night with these legends. 🙌🏽 #bleedblue

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The pair quickly formed a strong combination at club level which allowed them a seamless transition into the Origin arena, but now their sights are firmly set on bringing success back to the Panthers under new coach Ivan Cleary.

The strength of their playing roster will put them in a prime position to cement themselves as one of the competition heavyweights in 2019 – an opportunity that Cleary wants to make the most of as he also looks to enhance his own game.

"I want to improve all aspects of my game next year, but we have a really good team out at Penrith now and we've really hit the ground running for 2019," he said.

"We're hoping we can go deep into the finals."

Cleary was one of 11 debutants who were part of the historic Series victory in July this year before helping the Panthers to the second week of the NRL finals – enduring an agonising 21-20 defeat to the Sharks. 

And the pain of defeat was made worse having played through a long-standing ankle injury which saw the No.7 undergo surgery in the off-season. 

While the lay-off will see him return to training towards the end of January, Cleary remained positive will make a timely recovery ahead of the pre-season trials. 

"I just got the boot off today so pretty happy with that. It has been a pretty slow process but I'm on track."