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Trent helped make me the main man I am: Cleary

Nathan Cleary will farewell a second person vital to his emergence as a player when Panthers attack coach Trent Barrett moves to the Bulldogs next season.

Cleary is honest in his assessment of the critical parts of his game that Barrett helped piece together.

"He's helped me out so much, in instilling that confidence in me," Cleary said.

"That's the biggest thing I've learnt through Baz is laying that platform for me. I know what I need to do – I need to kick well, lead the boys around and claim that middle third of the field with the forwards.

"The forwards are listening to me… there's a good gel in the team."

The 2020 season keeps getting better for 22-year-old Cleary. He apportions some of that success to another key figure in his development, five-eighth James Maloney who left for Super League at the end of 2019.

Match Highlights: Sea Eagles v Panthers

His departure meant Cleary was ready to stand on his own two feet and take control of the Panthers.

"Me and Jimmy played some good games together but we were quite similar.

"In saying that I learnt a lot of Jimmy and how well we're going this year is a credit to him too. He taught me a lot of stuff – things I wasn't doing before he came to the club, things like game management.

"It's really moulded my game."

Cleary now has another couple of months with Barrett before he says goodbye to him too, although the pair will most likely work together with the NSW Origin team in November.

Nathan Cleary and Trent Barrett.
Nathan Cleary and Trent Barrett. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"I really like working with Baz as I do all the coaching staff at the moment – it's a really good mix," Cleary said.

"It will be a massive loss but he's really laid the platform now and given a lot of players confidence in their attack.

"In the end you've got to chase your dreams and there's only 16 head coaching jobs out there so no-one is holding it against him. Everyone is very happy for him.

"The good thing is that we didn’t really have to speak about it. We saw that he'd signed the deal – he told us about it – and then we were straight into preparations for the next week.

"We've got a really cool thing going on at the moment where we just block any outside noise.

"Baz is chief in that. He comes in, shows up every day to get us all better."

And the mix is working. Penrith is strutting its stuff on top of the NRL ladder.

It was a far different picture this time last year. The Panthers had endured a six-week run of losses to be 5-8 at the round 13 mark before finishing 10th.

"I was talking to 'Sauce' (Josh Mansour) last week that this is the first time for me in first grade that I've been on the top," Cleary said.

"I don't think it changes things too much – our goal is to improve our teamwork each week and I think that's the reason we are leading."

Another good challenge comes this Saturday night at Panthers Stadium when the Raiders arrive.

"It's always a battle against Canberra – they are always pretty close games," Cleary said.

"NRL wins don’t come lightly. They were hard to come by for us last year so we'll enjoy it while we can – this is a crazy feeling but it’s back to work when we have to be."

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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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