Injured Penrith captain Nathan Cleary has given an insight into the chaos that came with Queensland’s lockdown on Saturday, which resulted in a number of fixtures being shifted.
The Queensland government’s call on Saturday morning wiped out all three of Saturday’s fixtured NRL matches, with the Panthers’ grand final rematch against the Storm postponed to Sunday afternoon.
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Cleary explained how the players had been hastily called off the training track as the NRL scrambled to keep the season alive.
“Yesterday was one of the craziest days ever,” he told Nine’s The Sunday Footy Show.
“We were sitting around just after breakfast and we found out about Queensland going into a lockdown. We thought it was a good thing to try and halt the spread of COVID up here, but we never really thought the game was going to be off.
“Us boys who weren’t playing were just in the middle of a warm-up getting ready to train and we just got called in saying pretty much that we’ve got to amend straight away and we couldn’t be training and there was a good chance the game wouldn’t be on.
“We rushed back to the team room and had a meeting, we thought we were going to be off to Townsville to play the game, then we were just waiting around and eventually we got told we weren’t playing.
“I think the NRL did a great job to get the games back on today. There’s a lot of people out there in lockdown at the moment bored at home and they all love their footy, so kudos to the NRL for getting it on today.”
Cleary is still sidelined from a right shoulder injury he suffered while representing New South Wales in this year’s State of Origin series, and is still without a definitive timeline on his return.
“Honestly, I don’t really have a set return date yet,” he said.
“Rehab is going really well, but there’s still a few boxes to tick until I can get back out on the field and feel fully confident. Hopefully it’s within the next few weeks.”
While their star man is sidelined, he believes there is a big opportunity for players on the fringes to stake their claim in the coming weeks, starting with Sunday’s clash against the Storm.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity. Obviously with Tevita Pangai coming into the squad now as well, there’s going to be limited spots especially on that bench and through the middle there,” he said.
“There’s a few guys coming in today that can really put their hand up to deserve a spot in the final 17. There’s still plenty of talent on the team and plenty of belief.”