Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary was under all sorts of pressure heading into last round’s match against Wests Tigers but a powerful visualisation training technique led to his epic conversion at full-time to send the game into golden point.
Cleary and his halves partner James Maloney had been in the firing line heading into the Tigers match following the Panthers disappointing start to the NRL season highlighted by their 32-2 loss to Melbourne in round three.
The Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues No.7 had been battling a groin problem which impacted on his kicking when Panthers Head of Performance Hayden Knowles – who is also the trainer for the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues – stepped in to offer some much-needed advice.
Knowles told the 21-year-old to practice his kicking technique minus a boot and ball – a visualisation technique which Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler is also a fan of – which paved the way for his heroics at the end of the match.
Cleary would go on to also kick a long-range field goal in golden point to seal a 9-8 win and ease some of the pressure on himself, Maloney and the Panthers.
“He was saying was that there was a time where Nathan hurt himself while he was kicking and he told him, instead of kicking just go around and kick without a ball.” Fittler told nswrl.com
“So, he just went around and started kicking without a ball.
“He’s one of those kids, he’s open to suggestions, trying things and he doesn’t judge them too quickly.
“It was amazing because last week he had a sore groin because he was kicking too much and then a week later, he kicks a goal that goes into extra time and kicks a field goal.”
Fittler credits Cleary’s open mindedness towards the visualisation technique to helping him nail the difficult conversion which the Panthers star later revealed he had dreamt about the night before the match.
“He just works hard Nathan, he leaves nothing to chance,” Fittler said.
“He’s open to ideas and new streams of learning.
“I’ve seen it so many times - a lot of people don’t get those kicks. It was incredible.”
Bulldogs goalkicker Rhyse Martin didn’t enjoy the same outcome after his pressure-cooker conversion from the sideline that would have locked the scores up against Melbourne went horribly wide off the boot.
Martin’s 2018 conversion rate of 94.7% wasn’t reflected in that crucial moment, an error clearly affected by pressure and which denied the Bulldogs a chance to send the match into golden point.
“I watch Rhyse Martin, a lovely kid and really good player who kicks at one of the best conversion rates and you can just see how that’s his worst kick in the NRL and it came to that moment,” Fittler said.