‘Untruthful’: Cleary handed two-game ban
NRL golden boy Nathan Cleary's image has copped another embarrassing blow with the star Penrith halfback now sensationally facing a two-game ban for allegedly misleading the integrity unit, stating "untruthful" evidence.
And in a double bombshell for the Panthers, Cleary's close friend and teammate Tyrone May is also facing a two-game suspension for his involvement in their social distancing cover-up.
While Cleary is facing a $30,000 fine, May has been slapped with a $15,000 sanction.
It is a stunning backflip by the NRL after it was expected Cleary would escape suspension despite flouting social distancing rules when video of him dancing with young women at his home was posted on social media.
As The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday, while the likes of Phil Gould were calling for Cleary to be banned for the entire season, the NRL was initially reluctant to suspend the 22-year-old because of his cleanskin image.
There was also a genuine concern for Cleary's wellbeing given how hard he was said to have taken the public humiliation despite escaping police charges.
But that changed when claims emerged that new information had came to light during the integrity unit's investigation which apparently proved that the young Panther had misled the integrity unit.
Meanwhile, May's punishment for his part comes on the back of being sidelined for all of last season after being charged with filming four sex tapes without the consent of the women involved.
The NRL released a statement on Monday night detailing why Cleary and May had to be held to account for what on the surface might seem a minor transgression.
An NRL statement read: "The notices allege that the players were untruthful in relation to material matters and the proposed sanctions reflect the seriousness of those allegations.
"Both Players will now have an opportunity to respond to the matters alleged in Breach Notices before a final determination is made."
With Cleary now the Panthers' chief playmaker following James Maloney's exit to France this year, this will be a massive setback for the team that is coached by his father Ivan and who had started the season with back-to-back wins.
It will potentially mean the Panthers fielding an extremely inexperienced halves partnership of Matt Burton and Jarome Luai for their comeback game.
It could be viewed as a pretty heavy punishment for Cleary given how young Brisbane powerhouse David Fifita avoided any sanction from the NRL after he was locked up in Bali late last year after an alleged incident involving a nightclub security guard.
But there can be little sympathy for Cleary given how he went about drip-feeding information back to the NRL after he was caught out.
It will be interesting to see how NSW coach Brad Fittler also views Cleary's deceptive behaviour given how the Blues have put so much trust into his development.
Cleary was initially fined $10,000 (60 per cent was suspended) and given a suspended one-game for the breach.
Cleary was then issued with an amended breach when a TikTok video also emerged of him dancing with the girls which he had failed to inform the NRL about when they first interviewed him.
This is the first time Cleary has been caught up in any off-field controversy since arriving in first grade four years ago.
There is huge pressure on Cleary this year given Maloney's exit and the fact the side is coached by his dad.
Cleary started the season in outstanding form but this ban and the embarrassment of it will hit him hard, especially given how it also lets his teammates down at such a crucial time after what was shaping up to be such a promising period for the club following last year's disappointment.
Originally published as 'Untruthful': Cleary handed two-game ban