NRL Grand Final 2023: Johnathan Thurston’s reaction to Nathan Cleary goes viral, Panthers defeat Broncos

Nathan Cleary left the NRL world in utter disbelief as he almost single-handedly dragged the Penrith Panthers over the line against the Brisbane Broncos.

Cleary went nuclear over the final 20 minutes as the Panthers pulled off the biggest Grand Final comeback ever, coming back from 24-8 down to secure their historic three-peat 26-24.

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The reactions to Cleary’s absurd display came in from all over the rugby league world with Immortal Andrew Johns saying the performance put him among the greatest halves of football by a halfback in a grand final.

“Nathan Cleary has just elevated himself into NRL immortality,” Johns said.

Channel 9’s Mat Thompson added: “He’s just elevated himself into champion status.

“This is beyond belief. There is disbelief about what they have achieved tonight. It looked like they were going to lose by 30.”

But it was the reaction on the sidelines of NRL legend Johnathan Thurston that summed up exactly how everyone felt.

As Thurston sliced through the Broncos line to score what was the matchwinning try, Thurston was losing his mind.

After the game, Thurston addressed the display put forth by Cleary.

“This is a true champion of our game,” Thurston said on Channel 9’s coverage.

“At 25 years of age, it’s unfathomable what he’s going to do throughout the rest of his career. He hasn’t even hit his peak yet.

“Most halfbacks get to their peak at around 28-29, this kid’s 25 and what he has done is unbelievable. I’m in awe.”

It was then that replays of his sideline reaction began to roll with the former Cowboys superstar stating what was going through his head.

“I was just like … I was riding it … I just love footy,” he said.

“I ride the highs, I ride the lows and yeah I was just … mindblown. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe what I was watching.

“It just goes to show what a champion halfback he is and he’s only just beginning his career and he’s achieved so much already.”

Unsurprisingly, Cleary was named the Clive Churchill Medallist for the man of the match in the Grand Final, the second time he’s won the award.

“It honestly doesn’t feel real right now. Can’t wait for it to set in. To the Broncos boys, absolute beast team … very young,” he said as he accepted the award.

“Shoutout to Ezra Mam as well. You’re a freak. Thank you for that game, it’s the hardest game I have ever played.

“To our boys it’s nothing but love. We work so hard for this.

“We are still getting started, let’s go.”

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