Just when you thought Nathan Cleary’s NRL Grand Final heroics couldn’t get any better, news comes out he may well have done it on one leg.
The Penrith superstar was seen in the hands of trainers after the Panthers scored the opening try of the contest against the Brisbane Broncos.
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Instead of lining up for the spot kick, Stephen Crichton took his place as a trainer looked over Cleary’s left knee.
The injury came in the 10th minute of the game with Broncos enforcer Payne Haas copping a fine over the hip dro tackle.
Cleary was seen limping during Penrith’s celebrations and will be sent off for scans to determine if surgery will be required.
NRL Physio on X shared a video of the incident and noted it could be an MCL injury, meaning Cleary played 70 minutes in the Grand Final on effectively one leg.
It takes his final 20 minutes from arguably the best display ever seen to a clear frontrunner for the most absurd individual performance on the big stage.
Cleary wrote himself into folklore by almost single-handedly steering Penrith to a thrilling 26-24 comeback over the Broncos to claim a historic premiership three-peat.
His display has seen praise come in from legends of the game, with Darren Lockyer the latest to have his say.
He stated he couldn’t remember a better performance than what Cleary had produced.
“Nathan has got eight years to go, maybe more. His legacy already is enormous,” Lockyer said.
“Maybe with Origin he wants to tick a few more boxes, but in terms of club halfbacks the last bloke to do that (in a Grand Final) was Sterling.
“It is incredible and I don’t know if a bloke like Sterlo won a game like that on his own in the 1980s.
“Cleary won that game. Penrith didn’t win that. Nathan Cleary did.”
After claiming the Clive Churchill Medal — his second — the 25-year-old superstar halfback delivered a gracious celebration speech.
But it was his final line before leaving the stage that was most telling.
“We are still getting started,” Cleary said.
The Panthers have made themselves a dynasty and done so in an era where successful teams are usually torn apart as premiership players who command higher pay packets are forced to move on.
They are not immune and yet the club is still celebrating another triumph despite the brutal talent drain.
In the case of Cleary, NRL content lead Dan Talityre said it perfectly after full-time the era of dominance the league could still be facing: “Nathan Cleary is 25. Cam Smith played ANOTHER 12 YEARS.”