SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 14: Nathan Cleary of the Panthers looks dejected during the NRL Semi Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Penrith Panthers at Allianz Stadium on September 14, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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.

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 were saying that you wouldn't pick him as the NSW halfback. You wanted Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker.

"You don't give a rats about Nathan Cleary, you don't care about NSW. And he laughed and said, 'You got me'."

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 08: Nathan Cleary of the Panthers celebrates kicking a field goal to win the round 14 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Penrith Panthers at GIO Stadium on June 8, 2018 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

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.



  1. Cleary was better against Manly than he’d been in the other 2 games that he played this season. Of course, he was given lots of time & space.
    One player Penrith should look to sign for a couple of years to just see how he goes, is Thomas Jenkins. Scored 4 tries & set up 2 from centre last week in Canterbury Cup. Tall centre with lots of pace & skill . Will get a look at Canterbury Cup this weekend, because of suspensions .
    Another off of the line of good players. Sign him for longer, so West’s & Bulldogs etc can’t ! They have a couple of spots left in the top 30 squad. Make Jenkins one of them. If not, still sign him on for a couple of years.

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