Penrith manager Phil Gould is certain the locking down of star halfback Nathan Cleary will be the key to the Panthers’ success over the next few years.
Cleary, 20-years old, signed a five-year contract extension on Monday, which sees him remain at the club until the end of the 2024 season.
Only three months ago, fellow teammate Reagan Campbell-Gillard penned a similar deal with the Panthers with Gould believing these signatures will help the clubs recruitment and premiership prospects.
Gould told the media the Cleary deal is one of the biggest he’s been involved with.
“This is a contract built on potential, it comes with great responsibility,” Gould said.
“This is still a contract he will grow into over time.
“We know that he’s going to be an outstanding member of our club and it will also help us retain players, or recruit players if we have to do that down the track.”
After only three seasons in the NRL, Cleary is one of the games biggest rising stars and has quickly become popular figure amongst Penrith and NRL fans alike.
Cleary has stated his loyalty to the club after opting against going on the market to test his value when it comes to receiving offers from rival clubs.
With the club locking down two of their best players, it will now turn its attention to securing the signatures of Waqa Blake, James Fisher-Harris and Sione Katoa, who are all off-contract at the end of 2019.
Gould believes the team is heading in the right direction by securing many of their first-grade players.
“This year we’ve extended the contract of Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Viliame Kikau and we’ve got a few more to do before the end of next year,’ Gould said.
“Salary cap pressure has meant that we’ve had to move Corey Harawira-Naera and Tyrone Peachey this year. But we haven’t had any player put himself on the market and I’m not surprised Nathan was exactly the same.”
Cleary putting pen to paper at the Panthers rules out any chance of him making the switch to his father’s team the Wests Tigers, in which Ivan Cleary is currently contracted to until the end of 2020.
The promising halfback hopes one day he’ll be able to play under his father Ivan and hopes he’ll earn a second coaching gig with the club after fours seasons there before receiving the sack in 2015.
Nathan said he’s put his loyalty in the Panthers as they’ve been the club who have supported him.
“I’ve been here since I was 14, so they’ve pretty much taught me everything I knew,” Cleary said.
“I came over here from New Zealand. I think if I never made that trip over and dad never got the coaching job here, I honestly don’t even think I would be playing first grade.
“I owe it all to the Panthers and I do owe this club.”