TikTok lie set to cost Cleary game’s highest honour
It was the COVID fib which could cost star halfback Nathan Cleary the Dally M Medal - and Penrith are filthy.
News Corp can reveal Cleary's chances of claiming rugby league's highest individual honour have plummeted after being deducted six points for his TikTok video in late April, which resulted in a two-game suspension.
Cleary was originally cleared but then suspended for two games after being sprung misleading the NRL integrity unit.
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When the Dally M Medal voting went behind closed doors a fortnight ago Cleary was listed as being on 11 points, just two from the lead.
But Cleary should have been deducted six points under NRL rules, which state each week a player is suspended he loses three points. The NRL acknowledged the error on Sunday night, although the official leaderboard has not been corrected.
Cleary will now drop to just five points.
Since judging went silent the Panthers have won another two games, with Cleary producing a masterclass against Manly on Saturday that would likely have received the maximum three points.
The Panthers are angry, claiming Cleary is being penalised twice for his TikTok indiscretion.
"He has already been penalised by not being able to win points over those two games, hasn't he?" Panthers group chief executive Brian Fletcher said.
"The two weeks he didn't play - he couldn't earn any points. If he played, he could have polled six points.
"Losing six is a bit rough when you're suspended anyway. Part of your penalty was that you couldn't earn the points. It's a bit unfair you've got to lose another six.
"The way he is playing, he could have been the Dally M player (of the match) in both those games. It's hard to penalise him another six.
"Why would you get penalised another three points because you're out."
Wests Tigers hooker Harry Grant was leading on 13 points when voting went silent, one point clear of Melbourne's Cam Smith and Parramatta's Clint Gutherson.
"Players who are suspended throughout the season are deducted three Dally M Medal points for each week they are out of play," said an NRL spokesman on Sunday night.
"Any player suspended for two separate offences or suspended for more than two matches in any one season immediately becomes ineligible for the Dally M Medal."
Cleary led Penrith to a commanding 42-12 win over Manly at Lottoland. He has engaged the line 78 times this year and kicked 40 goals.
"Nathan is playing to his potential," Fletcher said. "This is what the coaches saw in him when they signed him long term. He always looked like he was going to be the face of Penrith.
"Nathan is only 22 years old. He has a wonderful future and that means a great future for the club, building around him as well."
Cleary's Panthers play Canberra in an NRL blockbuster on Saturday night at Panthers Stadium.