Kick pressure a part of the game: Cleary

Nathan Cleary says he relishes the added attention his kicking attracts from opposition teams.
Nathan Cleary says he relishes the added attention his kicking attracts from opposition teams.

Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary says he's not worried by the extra attention on his kicking game despite it being the centre of controversy leading into the NRL finals series.

The Panthers halfback on Tuesday said he cops no more than the average halfback in the NRL and accepts it as part of the game from the best teams in the competition.

"No, not really," he said when asked if he cops it any worse than any other playmaker.

"I think every team tries to put kick pressure on, it's a goal for every team when you come up against some of the better teams, it's a way to win is to try and control field position and the way to do that is to have good kick pressure.

"It's something that all the best teams value and it's just a part of the game.

"To combat that you try and get good position on the field, you try and get quick play the balls to get less kick pressure, it's just the way it works."

Last week Penrith put in a plea to the NRL to do more to protect Cleary as he kicks fearing he was going to be on the receiving end of an onslaught from Rabbitohs defenders in Saturday night's qualifying final.

He was hit late once by Keaon Koloamatangi in the 16-10 loss to Souths.

It was Cleary's first defeat in a 2021 season that includes two victories for NSW in the State of Origin series.

However, he's philosophical about finding a positive ahead of Saturday's sudden-death clash with Parramatta.

"I had a friend message me who said the best lessons come out of the greatest challenges sometimes, so it's something we're taking on," he said.

"We've learnt lessons out of a challenging time and hopefully it's something we can use this weekend."

A thorough review of the loss revealed moments the Panthers didn't execute as well as they have all season.

"In big games and in finals games, there's bit moments throughout,' he said.

"If you don't take them, other teams do, and they're the things that will win or lose you a game.

"We had a couple of those on the weekend, we missed a few opportunities and that's what cost us.

"We didn't give them the ball where we wanted to as often as what we planned and they did that to us."

Australian Associated Press