Nathan Cleary making his name in rugby league

League of his own: Nathan Cleary said winning the Penrith Valley Senior Sportstar award has capped off a great year on the football field. Picture: Gary Warrick

League of his own: Nathan Cleary said winning the Penrith Valley Senior Sportstar award has capped off a great year on the football field. Picture: Gary Warrick

His surname is already well known in rugby league circles in Penrith, but the latest Penrith Valley Sports Foundation senior sportstar Nathan Cleary has done a lot for the family name in his own right.

The 17-year-old is the son of Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary, and is completing his HSC at St Dominic's College, where he is captain of the first-grade rugby league team and a school prefect.

Cleary plays as a halfback and five-eighth and spent his junior years with Penrith Brothers before graduating to the Panthers junior representative teams.

Last year he was a member of the Panthers S.G. Ball Cup team that played in the grand final and he returned to the team as captain in 2015.

Cleary was selected to make his Holden Cup debut against the Wests Tigers in round 16 and has now played eight games for the Panthers under-20s.

Playing for the Panthers is balanced with his school schedule, where he will do his final exams later this year and is hoping to get the marks to go to university next year.

Some of Cleary's best football has come at St Dominics, and with school-based representative teams.

In July, he captained the NSWCCC team to the finals of the Australian Secondary Rugby League Tournament and will play for the Australian Schoolboys on their tour of New Zealand later this month.

It will be a bit of a homecoming for Cleary who lived in New Zealand and played rugby league in Auckland while his dad was coaching the Warriors.

While his dad has always been there to help him out along the way, he was never pushed into playing rugby league.

"He's always been happy to let me do my own thing, he's pretty easygoing," he said.

"I played soccer until I was 12 or 13, then I made the decision to start playing rugby league.

"I'm not trying to live off his name. I want to make a name for myself as a footy player."

At this stage, Cleary's aim will be to keep his spot in the Panthers under-20s for next season, but eventually he would like to join his dad at NRL level.

"I think I've still got a fair bit of hard work to do before that will happen, but it's definitely a big goal of mine."

Nominations for the PVSF Sportstar can be made on the PVSF website that is located at pvsf.org.au.

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