Injured Penrith star Nathan Cleary is hoping to prove his fitness before State of Origin selection.NSW are breathing a sigh of relief after Nathan Cleary declared he was aiming to be back from a knee injury in time to prove his fitness before State of Origin I.
In news that will be music to the ears of Blues coach Brad Fittler, the Penrith halfback said he had circled the Panthers’ round-11 NRL clash with the Wests Tigers as his targeted return to the field.
Should he be back in time to face the Tigers, who are fittingly coached by his dad Ivan, it would give him two games before Fittler reads out his team for the May 6 Origin series opener.
“I’ll see how I go when I’m running but at this stage I’m aiming for round 11, that’s a realistic goal,” Cleary told AAP.
“Funnily enough we’ve got the Tigers in round 11. You couldn’t script it any better. Hopefully I’m back then.
“But dad’s been saying it’s on a Thursday so it’s not a full week so he reckons I won’t be right.”
After suffering a grade three medial ligament tear in his left knee, he was expected to be out for 10 weeks, which would have almost certainly ruled him out of the chance to make his NSW debut in game one.
It’s universally accepted that it’s a matter of when, not if, the 20-year-old is selected to wear the Blues jersey.
Cleary still has some substantial hurdles to clear – he will be in a knee brace for another three weeks and can’t begin running before then.
“I had a couple of niggly injuries and a few soft tissue injuries so this is probably the first big injury I’ve had,” Cleary said.
“In saying that I’m really lucky to get this far without a major injury. It’s a part of footy and it’s all about how you bounce back.
“I think one of the biggest things will just be getting confidence back again.”
He said his father had been a positive force in his recovery and had helped keep his spirits high during the most challenging time of his young career.
“I’ve been lucky to have him when I’m in this position, he’s been through it all before, he’s seen people get injured,” Cleary said.