Nathan Cleary is ready to let his footy do the talking when he returns to the field from NRL suspension against Parramatta.
The Penrith halfback has been training with the club’s second team since being hit with a two-match ban for breaking social distancing laws in April during the coronavirus lockdown.
And while the Panthers remained undefeated since the competition’s resumption, coach Ivan Cleary said the team needed his son to resume his role as chief playmaker to take pressure off Matt Burton and Jarome Luai.
“He just wants to get out there and play footy, let his footy do the talking and everyone get on with life,” Cleary said on Thursday.
“Nathan’s job is to move the team around and conduct our game plan; he was doing all of that in the pre-season and his early-season games.
“Romey (Luai) did a good job last week, although we’ve had both Burto and Romey trying to manage everything in terms of kicking.
“It takes a lot of time to get used to and organise under pressure, so it’ll be good to have Nat back and that should free up the other boys to be able to play what they see.”
Rookie halfback Burton impressed with his maturity while Cleary was suspended, forcing the coach to include him on an extended bench as a utility for Friday night’s western Sydney derby at Bankwest Stadium.
Given Cleary and Luai spent the pre-season training together as the team’s first-choice halves pairing, the coach said he did not consider Burton for a starting spot.
“Not really for this week – Jarome and Nat have played together since they were kids, they have a good combination and I think they compliment each other nicely,” Cleary said.
“Having said that, Burto has certainly done enough to warrant a spot in our side. We feel like he can still add value, definitely, and he’s certainly a player of the future we think really highly of.
“We always planned this combination to start the season anyway and nothing has shown us why we shouldn’t continue with that so far.”
Fullback Dylan Edwards had been named on the extended bench but will miss another week as he transitions back from an ankle injury.