Ivan Cleary says the club contemplated contesting the grading of Nathan Cleary’s dangerous throw charge but didn’t want to risk the star halfback potentially missing the opening week of the finals.
Nathan took part in a light training session on Monday morning after he accepted a five-match ban for a grade three dangerous throw on Parramatta five-eighth Dylan Brown on Friday night.
The suspension has turned Penrith’s remaining five weeks of the regular season on its head with five-eighth Jarome Luai also sidelined with a knee injury until at least round 25.
Ivan said Nathan had taken his suspension “well” despite everyone still being shocked around the incident.
“We definitely thought we had a case there but in the end we thought the risk was too high for him to lose another week,” Cleary said.
“Nat is really happy that Dylan is ok, that’s probably the most important thing out of all of this.
“Because although he clearly never set out for that tackle to end how it did, the fact is it became dangerous but thank god Dylan got up and is fine, that’s really good news.
He feels like he’s let everyone down
“I’ve said this before but I’m very proud of how he does own his mistakes. He did that and definitely felt for Dylan.
“The way he processes things he did that. I have trained well this morning and it seems good.”
Coach Cleary backed Nathan and Luai and to hit their straps the moment they return to a Panthers side that is planning to not use the next five games to stumble into the finals.
The defending champions sit three wins clear on top of the Telstra Premiership ladder with at least one more victory in the run home set to lock in the club’s second minor premiership in three seasons.
While the Panthers aren’t relying on results to go their way like other sides, Cleary doesn’t want the recent week of events to distract from what the side has done this season.
“Every result matters,” he said.
“You have some plans but then you’ve always got to have some flexibility around that. It hasn’t changed too much at the moment.
“We’re fortunate that we have banked a lot of points in the first half of the year but at this point we’re focused on getting a good performance out this week.
“No matter what happens you want to go into the finals with individuals in good shape and the team in good shape.
“It gives other people opportunity and there’s plenty of things in our game where it doesn’t all revolve around the halves.
Behind the scenes of Kurt Falls’ jersey presentation
“We’ve got to make sure we’re working on other stuff so when those guys come back in we can put it all together.
“Whoever wears the jersey they’ve got a job to do for this team and that’s how we’ll be approaching it.”
The Panthers will hit the road this week to Kiama for a three-day camp before arriving to Canberra on Friday in preparation for their clash with the Raiders.
Back-up halfback Kurt Falls is expected to be available and looks likely to partner Sean O’Sullivan in the halves while Stephen Crichton (ear) could also make a return and is set to wear headgear.