Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary beamed with pride in his son Nathan, who won the Clive Churchill Medal for his dominant display in the NRL Grand Final against South Sydney in Brisbane on Sunday.
Nathan earned man-of-the-match honours for his classy kicking game, which strangled Souths out of an attritional 80-minute battle.
Playing with maturity beyond his years, the 23-year-old delivered 21 kicks for 649 metres, forced five goal-line dropouts off his boot, and nailed three attempts at goal as Penrith scraped home by two points.
The Panthers skipper also made 22 runs for 107 metres, despite carrying a shoulder injury that sidelined him for two months after the mid-year State of Origin series.
The Grand Final triumph caps an exceptional 2021 campaign for Cleary, who also led New South Wales to an emphatic Origin series win over Queensland and claimed the Dally M halfback of the year gong.
And Ivan was full of praise for his boy post-game.
“I can’t sum up my emotions,” coach Cleary said, before describing the experience of presenting Nathan with the Clive Churchill Medal as “completely out of this world”.
“I was standing there, and I was like, ‘I couldn’t even have written that story’. I didn’t know it was happening, I didn’t know I had to do it.
“Daily, he’s part of the team — captain, player, all that kind of stuff. But we’ve always still been able to be father and son… and when the siren went, and I saw him out there, he’s still my boy.”
“It honestly feels like a dream — we’ve been working so hard to get to this moment. I’ve been dreaming of this moment my whole life, and it’s finally here.”
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