Finals not good enough for Cleary
ORIGIN success has Nathan Cleary craving more.
The young Panthers star knows he let the bright lights of NRL finals footy consume him during his first two post-season campaigns in 2016 and 2017 as Penrith bowed out in the semi-finals.
But after his successful Origin series with Brad Fittler's Blues, the 20-year-old Panthers playmaker says he's no longer just happy to be in the finals.
Cleary is ready to take the next step in September.
"I think playing those big games has definitely helped," Cleary said.
"Playing alongside Jimmy (Maloney) obviously helps with that as well.
"In the last two years I think maybe I fell into the trap where I was happy to be there and experience it.
"But this year I want to take it a step further and get through to the second last week.
"That is my main focus at the moment."
Cleary says the intensity of Origin taught him to make the most of his chances, especially under pressure.
He hopes to use these lessons to ice Friday night's semi-final against Cronulla.
"I think it is all about staying patient," he said.
"There are not a lot of points in those tight finals games and Origins, so if something doesn't come off the first time you have to stick with it and trust that it will come late in the game when the fatigue sets in.
"You also don't get as many opportunities, so when the opportunities arise you have to go full force with it."
Cleary also revealed he has been gaining a few tips from his father, Ivan.
With the Wests Tigers season over, Cleary senior has time to attend his son's matches and pass on any post-game tips.
Nathan says his dad's tips have been valuable.
"The main thing we've talked about his goal kicking," Cleary said.
"He told me a story after that Melbourne game in the final round where he'd missed five out of six as well.
"That gave me a bit of confidence.
"But he never wanted to tell me that story beforehand. He'd only want to tell me stories how he kicked the goal from the sideline to win games."
Cleary is off-contract at the end of the 2009 season while he is a free agent from November 1. He said he'll focus on Penrith's finals campaign before making a decision on his future after the season.
"The agreement was that we'll wait until the end of the season and I'll talk from there," he said.
"I just want to stick to my word but when the season is done I'll be happy to talk."