Penrith co-captain Nathan Cleary has opened up on a difficult 2019 season that affected his mental state.
The star halfback was trolled with social media slander and even publicly criticised by super coach Wayne Bennett.
Cleary’s mental struggles were revealed on Panthers high performance guru Hayden Knowles’ Get the Edge Podcast.
That’s not on, but rest assured he would be feeling a lot of love also. Most people love the bloke. A lot of kids only know the name of their fave player and I bet nath is top of the pops in the school yard.
The 2019 season was a tough one for Cleary professionally and it didn’t get any better with the unfriendly taunts that came his way on social media.
The season went from bad to worse for Cleary when Bennett, who began coaching South Sydney that season, declared that he’d sack both him and James Maloney for Origin.
Knowles revealed on the podcast that he confronted Bennett at the time, accusing him of trying to bring down Cleary and Maloney to promote his own players.
“Wayne at that time, Nathan’s reading s***, even you came out with s***,” Knowles said.
“You don’t give a rats about Nathan Cleary, you don’t care about NSW. And he laughed and said, ‘You got me’.”
Cleary said the online abuse that year left him ‘paralysed’, but that he has learned to shut out the opinions of others.
“It took over my mental state and it was affecting the way I was playing,” he said.
“The most frustrating thing is I was reading all this stuff and it was just paralysing, it was affecting the way I was playing, which affected the team.
“It was the first time I acknowledged I had performance anxiety from reading all this stuff and putting all this pressure on myself.”
Since then, Cleary led the Panthers to a minor premiership last year and played a role in the Blues’ Origin win in 2019.
“When it comes to the critics… I don’t ever really go out there to try and prove the critics wrong. I go out there to try and make my family and teammates proud.” @NSWBlues halfback Nathan Cleary #Origin pic.twitter.com/xeZ4V5eMLD
— ABC SPORT (@abcsport) November 11, 2020