TikTok shocker is no Dally M noose for Cleary after all
In a TikTok aftershock, star halfback Nathan Cleary is poised to stun rugby league by dismissing a controversial six-point deduction to become the first Panther in 35 years to claim the prestigious Dally M Medal.
That is the opinion of Penrith's two greatest halfbacks - Greg Alexander and Craig Gower.
Cleary was docked six points after lying to the NRL over his role in the infamous COVID TikTok video scandal in April, which resulted in a two-game suspension.
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He plummeted from 11 points back to five, his Dally M chances having seemingly evaporated.
Yet Cleary's elite performances during Penrith's history-making 13 successive wins - according to Alexander and Gower - has the NSW halfback ready to somehow overcome the deduction and claim rugby league's top individual award.
The prediction comes amid speculation Cleary may be rested during one of the final two rounds to give reserve halfback Matt Burton some much-needed game time. A concern though with resting Cleary is that it could cost him the Dally M Medal.
Despite the rumours, Cleary is expected to fly to Townsville for Friday night's match against North Queensland where victory could secure Penrith their first minor premiership since 2003.
Alexander, a Panthers director, is the only Panther to have won the Dally M, his big night arriving in 1985.
"Absolutely Nathan can win it - I have no doubt he has made up those six points pretty quickly," said Alexander.
"Nathan has had an incredible year, so consistent, he is churching out dominant game after dominant game.
"Thirteen straight wins for Penrith and you'd have to think he has been in the top three players just about every week. The six points mightn't be an issue at all. He has made up those points - I really think he has.
"He's been dominant in every one of those 13 wins so far. If he wasn't docked the six points, he is winning it without a doubt. It will still take someone who has had a great season to beat him."
Cleary was originally cleared after the TikTok video emerged but later suspended when sprung misleading the NRL integrity unit.
NRL rules state each week a player is suspended he loses three points. Cleary's two-game ban equated to six Dally M points.
"They have now won 13 games in a row and that's certainly been off the back of his performances," Gower said.
"I can't see why he can't win it. Everything peels off what he does.
"When you win 13 in a row, they will probably win 15 in a row, there it is. If I was a betting man I'd be looking at Nathan and Cameron (Smith) as a one-two finish in the Dally M.
"It will depend on who is voting on the day but, don't get me wrong, Nathan is certainly a chance."
At the time of the TikTok drama, when voting went silent, Wests Tigers hooker Harry Grant was leading on 13 points, one point clear of Melbourne's Cam Smith and Parramatta's Clint Gutherson.
Burton was named as a reserve for the Cowboys game in jumper 20.
Originally published as TikTok shocker no Dally M noose for Cleary after all