NRL 2024: Ivan Cleary hopes Nathan Cleary will return early from hamstring injury

Nathan Cleary could be back as early as next week after there were initial fears the Panthers superstar could be sidelined for up to a month with a hamstring injury that forced him off late during the win over Brisbane.

The representative halfback came off with a right hamstring strain having suffered a much more serious hamstring injury on the other leg last year that ruled him out of the final two State of Origin matches.

The latest setback is nowhere near as bad as that one, with his coach saying it could be a “silver lining” to help Nathan recover from a foot injury that has hampered him.

The Panthers play the Roosters on Thursday, with Nathan a chance to be back next week against Manly or after the round 6 bye.

“Injuries come and go, so it’s just one of those things,” Ivan Cleary said.

“Nat seems to have a sabbatical every year, this one’s a bit earlier. It’s an opportunity for others. It’s not too bad, so that’s the pleasing thing. He felt the same thing last year before he actually did it properly.

“The fact that he had that experience means we cut this one off a bit sooner. Hopefully, it’ll only be a couple of weeks.

“He actually might be able to play next week. With the bye coming up the following week, it’s just going to be a question of seeing how he goes throughout this week, and we’ll make an educated decision next week.”

Cleary’s injury continues a shocking streak for some of the game’s biggest stars, with the halfback suffering the setback after a stunning first half where he bamboozled the Broncos defence time and time again.

“We could tell something was wrong, so we went out and got him checked and got the feedback that it wasn’t too bad. It certainly wasn’t like last year, so there was no point in him being out there,” Ivan explained.

“He’s had a (plantar) fasciitis injury in his foot since pre-season. Sometimes that plays its part. He’s been struggling with that for a bit. This might be a silver lining, where he can fix that up as well in the meantime.”

Former Raiders playmaker Brad Schneider will play halfback, with Cleary confirming James Fisher-Harris will again be unavailable for the Roosters game.

The Panthers will also be without Scott Sorensen, who turned up to Tuesday’s session in a knee brace, which opens the door for local favourite Mavrik Geyer to make his debut and follow in the footsteps of his famous father, Mark.

“It’s an exciting time for him and his family. He’s been very patient and he’s really knuckled down over the last couple of years. He’s worked really hard for this and I think he’s ready, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes,” his coach said.

Geyer is into his third season of reserve grade and will have stacks of support in the stands at Allianz Stadium, with fans hoping to see him put on the big hits that made his dad one of the most feared players.

“I didn’t get the joy of playing with MG, but I played against him and tried to avoid him as much as I could. They’re a little bit different and the game is a bit different these days. I haven’t seen that (mean streak),” Cleary said.

“He’s a bit of a late bloomer who didn’t really get serious about his footy until probably three years ago. He’s been playing well at Cup level and training really well. This pre-season has been outstanding and he’s ready now to take the next step.”

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