Ivan Cleary has introduced more ball work into training

Ivan Cleary has introduced more ball work into Panthers training sessions during off-season

Scott Bailey, AAP - 20/2/2019

Ivan Cleary has put the ball back in Penrith’s NRL pre-season with players noticing a shift from Anthony Griffin’s long running sessions to a more game-focused approach.

Three months after he left the Wests Tigers, Cleary will coach Penrith in a match for the first time in three years in Saturday’s NRL trial against South Sydney at Redfern.

Besides swapping halves Nathan Cleary and James Maloney to opposite sides of the field, the coach’s most notable pre-season impact has been longer and harder-hitting skills sessions.

|0x0Tamou: Cleary understands us

“Each coach has their own way of how they want to coach … The pre-seasons that we’ve had under Hook (Griffin), probably just the running aspect was s**t,” prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard told AAP.

“Over the past few years we’ve had a Monday and a Friday with fitness and no ball. You front up to maybe 7km of just running and that’s your session done before you come over and do weights.

“Now you’re actually doing fitness with a ball in hand. I’ve always been a believer of it and having previously been coached by Ivan that’s what I’m used to.”

|0x0James Maloney focused on fast start

Last season’s pre-season is understood to have been a point of contention at Penrith which culminated in Griffin and Phil Gould’s confrontation during the first pre-season trial last February.

After his sacking as coach, Griffin claimed the two had words over a lack of focus in the team’s attack as he opted to play his forwards unchanged through the first 40 minutes of a trial against Canterbury.

Penrith regularly stormed home late to win games last year but were ranked just 11th for completed sets.

In turn, Cleary has held regular long ball work sessions since his arrival in November, with a no-holds-barred approach often taken in defence.

“It’s a no brainer,” Campbell-Gillard said.

Coach Ivan Cleary speaks to his son Nathan Cleary.

“We train with a ball, we’re not marathon runners and we’re not in the Olympics to train for a 2.5km run.

“Our trade is to play with a football … It helps to try and catch a ball under fatigue, it’s going to happen.

“It’s things like that, scenarios that are actually going to happen in a game.”

The players are believed to have felt the brunt of the strategy with a number of minor contact injuries but all expected are to be fit to face Parramatta in round one.


It was clear to me that our cardio fitness was the best in the comp last year and I’m sure that was Hooks mantra, be in it to the end. The fact we let in so many points early was our downfall.

If the same happens again this year, without the cardio fitness, we will not run down these leads. All good to have ball in hand, but stopping points should be paramount, then we can get fancy, which is a natural thing for our squad.

It’s going to be a tough season if we can’t “run down” a lead !

I think the strategy with the ball handling and strategy is to not rack up those deficits early on. If I was the new coach and I had to highlight the clubs greatest weakness it would have been the poor starts and as such that’s what I would be focusing on.

You mean work on defence as a first port of call right?

I imagine so. Defense will need to be a big part of their season if they aim to stop first half leaks

Purporting to take a breather for a second half resurgence
could not possibly be a legitimate tactic.

Defend by all means, but wouldn’t it be nice to have
someone breaking their ^# to run us down.

Remember, no ones ever won a game nil all !

Closest would have been in 1973 when Newtown beat St George 1-0 Puss.

you’re either as old as me or like to Google birdman. :wink:

My guess is older but I do confess to using Mr Google for the exact details.

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A Ken Wilson field goal, if I’m not mistaken. And, for a couple of seasons in the mid '70’s, he was a Panther!

Those were the days…

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then you ole blokes will remember Newtowns experiment
with ‘gridiron’ star Manfred Moore?

cardio fitness those days was a lap on the cycle track at
Henson Park. Mind you it was harder than you think,
sidestepping pot holes every 2 or 3 metres was daunting.

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Spot on Bryan. I met Ken in the 80’s when he was a manager with Moore Paragon who supplied my computer stationery.

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I’m guessing the term “seasoned campaigner” is an understatement for you blokes…LOVE IT


Thanks, Kevin. I prefer “seasoned campaigner” to “clapped out old fart”, “dinosaur” or "stupid old c&%@! but they’re what I usually get…

Albert Ross - I never met Ken Wilson but he always struck me as a good bloke. No ego, no bullshit, good clubman - and a freakish goal kicker

Yes, Puss, I remember Manfred Moore well - and the experiment of having him clear the ruck/skirt the defence by having him chuck a gridiron pass 40 metres across the field. It probably would’ve worked if he hadn’t thrown it 40 metres forward as well.

I was doing massage for Pennant Hills AFL Club a few years ago & the finals were played at Henson Park. I don’t think the playing surface has changed much since Ken Wilson’s day, the change rooms certainly haven’t.

Great memories! :grinning::grinning::grinning: