A shirtless Nathan Clearly emerged from the Penrith Panthers Leagues Club on Monday after partying throughout the night and into the morning following their 28-12 demolishing of the Parramatta Eels in the NRL Grand Final.
Penrith Panthers’ star halfback Nathan Clearly has issued a touching message of condolence to the Parramatta Eels and the team’s heartbroken fans hours after slaughtering the fellow Western Sydney side in the NRL Grand Final.
The Panthers entered the decider on Sunday night as firm favourites to earn back-to-back premierships, while the long-awaited Eels hoped to end their 36-year drought.
But it was not meant to be for the Blue and Gold army, with Penrith running rampant from kick-off in one of the most dominating finals displays, defeating Parramatta 28-12.
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Cleary, who is on track to be one of the best halfbacks the sport has ever seen, emerged bleary-eyed from the Penrith Panthers Leagues Club about 7:45am after partying well into the early hours of Monday morning with his team.
The 24-year-old was shirtless, wearing a pair of shorts and ski goggles around his neck, when he was chased down by reporters wondering how he was feeling with a second premiership from three consecutive Grand Final appearances.
“It’s up there,” he said about it being some of the best first half footy he’s ever played.
A reporter wondered whether it was any less special given they had emulated the same scenes just a year ago when they narrowly defeated the South Sydney Rabbitohs 14-12.
“Not at all. This is what you work hard for. At the start of the year you have a goal to try to get to this stage just to compete for the final and we did that this year,” Cleary said.
He declared Penrith would chase for a third straight title next year before he thanked loyal Panthers fans for their ongoing support throughout the season.
“I just want to say massive thank you to the fans. Couldn’t do it without you guys. Thank you for all the support,” he said.
Another journalist then posed to Cleary whether he “felt sorry for Parra”.
“A little bit,” the 24-year-old said before insisting their Western Sydney rival would break one of the most infamous droughts in NRL history.
“It will come around. You know, Penrith had a long time between premierships and you know we’re lucky enough to enjoy it now.”
Cleary headed back home in Penrith to get “an hour’s sleep” before he would return to BlueBet Stadium with his teammates and club for a fan day to continue celebrations.
Panthers were relentless in their attack and defence, piling on 18 points in the first half, and another 10 in the second to lead 28-0 in front of almost 84,000 stunned fans at Accor Stadium in Homebush, in Sydney’s west.
The Eels had no answers for the minor premiers but two late tries from Clint Gutherson and Jake Arthur gave the Blue and Gold army something to cheer about.
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur admitted they were beaten by the better team.
While he gave no excuses for the squad’s loss, he believes the tough road to the decider, losing to Penrith in the qualifying final and playing an extra game against North Queensland Cowboys in the preliminary final last week could have cost them.
“They’re a very good team, they just played too fast for us,” he said.
“I’m extremely proud of the team, the staff, the club. It’s a tough road to get here and maybe the tough road took its toll on us.
“It’s a big achievement, we’re not just putting the cut in the rack and saying we’re content with that, but I just want to focus on how proud I am of the guys as individuals and as men.”
Gutherson was heard saying “none” when a reporter asked about how the Cowboys game may have affected them, before Arthur added: “We can’t be looking for excuses”.
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