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Cleary facing sure-fire test for NRL return

True Blue Steve Menzies says there’s a sure-fire way to check how Nathan Cleary’s shoulder will hold up to the rigours of the NRL, when the Penrith Panthers host the South Sydney Rabbitohs at BlueBet Stadium on tonight.

The Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues halfback is making his first appearance for 2022 after off-season shoulder surgery on his right joint.

He dislocated it during Game Two of the Ampol State of Origin series last year but managed to see out the season with Penrith; helping his club to a Premiership in the process.

 Menzies told Behind Blue Eyes he would be watching Cleary closely at Bluebet Stadium.

“It will be interesting to see how much he takes the line on – that will be real indication of how his shoulder is when he’s going deep into that (defensive) line,” Menzies said.

“That’s probably something to look out for. But the Panthers can only get better with him there.”

Father and coach Ivan Cleary gave Nathan three extra weeks preparation, knowing it is a long and arduous club and representative year.

“And with something like a shoulder injury he’d have had a couple of his own players running at it so I’m sure he’s copped some friendly fire at training,” Menzies said.

“For other teams they’ll focus on him – send their big fellows at him. For the Panthers I think Nathan will slot straight back in.”

The 2021 NRL Grand Final re-match is a tantalising game to make a return. 

“I think the Panthers are going from strength to strength so having Nathan back might make them too good (Friday night),” he said.

“But Souths are very competitive and have a score to settle.

The Rabbitohs skipper Cam Murray had a stellar game in the 28-16 over the Roosters, with a try, two try assists and two line-breaks, as part of 17 runs for 152 metres.

Menzies sees Murray as a NSW Blues captain-in-waiting. He is five years younger than current captain James Tedesco, 29.

“I think so because when you see these young guys play football you also see them be leaders in their team…. not necessarily the most experienced or the oldest one but they are leaders on the field,” Menzies said.

“You can see Cam did a lot of talk and players were following him (in Roosters game). Those are the type of players who really enjoy being captain because they love the extra responsibility.

“And he has all the traits.”

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