Readers wanting to watch the entire interview can catch the full segment at 11pm tonight on Nine’s 100% Footy.
Panthers prodigy Nathan Cleary has broken his silence over an administrative blunder that has seen his chances of claiming this year’s Dally M medal take a huge hit.
The 22-year-old was sitting on 11 points, just two points off leader Harry Grant, when voting for the 2020 Dally M medal went behind closed doors two weeks ago.
However, according to NRL rules, the Penrith halfback should have been docked six points, because each week a player is suspended they also lose three points.
Cleary was suspended the first two games of the revamped NRL season for lying to the integrity unit about the details of his Tik Tok debacle earlier this year.
On Sunday night, the NRL admitted they had made a mistake, with Cleary effectively on five-points due to his two-week suspension in Rounds 3 and 4.
When posed with the rigmarole, the halfback showed maturity beyond his years as he broke his silence on his weakened Dally M hopes.
“I just got sent an article about it this morning, but at the end of the day it was my stuff up so I’ve got to take any repercussions from that,” Cleary told Nine’s 100% Footy. “It’s just one of those things.
“It’s not a massive thing for me. Obviously, it’s a goal to win a Dally M eventually but I’d much rather just be playing good footy for Penrith and have our team doing well.
“If I want it now, I’m just going to have to play a bit better and see how it goes.”
However, Cleary’s Panthers were less than impressed with the indiscretion, with the club claiming their playmaker was being punished again on top of his initial suspension.
“He has already been penalised by not being able to win points over those two games, hasn’t he?” Panthers group chief executive Brian Fletcher said.
“The two weeks he didn’t play — he couldn’t earn any points. If he played, he could have polled six points.
“Losing six is a bit rough when you’re suspended anyway. Part of your penalty was that you couldn’t earn the points. It’s a bit unfair you’ve got to lose another six.
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“The way he is playing, he could have been the Dally M player (of the match) in both those games. It’s hard to penalise him another six.
“Why would you get penalised another three points because you’re out.”
That sentiment was echoed by Melbourne Storm great Billy Slater who branded the NRL’s decision ridiculous.
“It’s the best and fairest, and I can understand a suspension on the field occurring three deduction points for every week you’re suspended for,” Slater told WWOS Radio on 2GB.
“But to take two opportunities for him to accumulate points and then hit him with six points deducted as well, I think that’s unfair. It’s close to home for me.
“I ran second in the Dally M by two points and I got suspended for one week that year, and had three points deducted off me. So I know how he’s feeling. But my situation was different it was an on-field issue, this is an off-field issue. It’s got nothing to do with the best and the fairest…I think it’s ridiculous.”