Questions are being asked about the extent of Nathan Cleary's knee injury after the Penrith Panthers halfback was still sporting a brace some four weeks after the NRL grand final. Cleary suffered the injury in the opening minutes of Penrith's win over Brisbane in the decider, but managed to play through the pain and guide his side to victory.
Cleary masterminded the biggest comeback in an NRL grand final ever, helping the Panthers erase a 16-point deficit with just 20 minutes to go. The halfback laid on two try assists before scoring the match-winner as the Panthers claimed their third-consecutive premiership.
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Cleary's heroics took on a whole new meaning when it came to light that he'd suffered a knee injury in the first 10 minutes - an injury serious enough to keep him out of the Kangaroos team for the Pacific Championships. While Cleary and the Panthers have played down the injury as nothing too serious, he's only just gotten out of the knee brace this week.
Brien Seeney, who runs the 'NRL Physio' social media accounts and 'Magic Sponge' podcast, highlighted the significance of the fact Cleary was still wearing the brace over a month after the grand final. The issue came to the public's attention when the halfback was seen wearing the brace in photos with new girlfriend Mary Fowler - snapped by the Daily Mail.
Nathan Cleary is still in a knee brace over 4 weeks after suffering a knee injury 10 minutes into the NRL GF. That’s the most newsworthy info from this photo, right? pic.twitter.com/ideEsLReW6
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) November 1, 2023
Seeney said Cleary most likely suffered a moderate to high-grade PCL tear, and put his insane grand final performance in an even higher light. "For him to do what he did, in particularly in the last half an hour, but just to play out the whole game with that injury and to perform like he did," said Seeney in a video posted to social media this week.
"He would have had to have gone in at half time with that injury and cooled down - and that's when it's going to be really painful, it's going to swell up a little bit. Then he's going to have to go out there. (Isaah) Yeo's off, (Jarome) Luai's off, all these things that we know.
"But to do all that with whatever this injury is, and it sounds like a moderate to high grade PCL injury, is just...It probably won't get the fanfare that a broken face from Sam Burgess or a fractured shoulder blade form Cooper Cronk did. But I think it's a bit under-appreciated."
Nathan Cleary finally out of knee brace after grand final
Cleary was still wearing the brace in photos of him enjoying some downtime with Matildas star Fowler in Perth. The brace was still protecting the joint when he farewelled her at the airport as she flew back to England to rejoin club team Manchester City in the Women's Super League. But eagle-eyed fans noticed the brace had finally come off this week in videos posted to social media by the 'Drink West' account - a beer brand founded by Cleary and UFC fighters Tai Tuivasa and Tyson Pedro.
As well as the knee injury, Cleary also suffered a dislocated finger earlier in the finals series. After the grand final he released a photo of the finger pointing the wrong way. True to form he showed his resilience to tape it up and keep playing, helping the Panthers beat the Storm and Broncos in back-to-back games with the painful injury.
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