Panthers have to keep Cleary: Wallace

Penrith captain Peter Wallace says the Panthers make keeping Nathan Cleary their top priority.Penrith have to make it their first, second and third priority to keep gun halfback Nathan Cleary at the NRL club, according to captain Peter Wallace.
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Despite having two more years on his current deal, Cleary’s status has been a hot topic all summer after hinting at linking with father and Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary.

While rival clubs are prohibited from opening talks with the 20-year-old until November, Cleary and the Panthers have put contract talks on hold until later in the season.

But following the departures of former skipper Matt Moylan and fellow local junior Bryce Cartwright in the off-season, Wallace says keeping Cleary is imperative.

“It’s hugely important,” Wallace told AAP.

“Obviously he’s come through the grades here so we consider him a Penrith junior. He’s just a quality person as well. Hopefully the club can keep him but it’s still a while off.”

Following two straight semi-final finishes, the Panthers are widely believed to be in the midst of a premiership window.

However, Wallace believes the club can remain competitive in the long term with Cleary at the helm.

“I hope he does stay with the club … I want to see it do well and I think it can be great with Nath being here steering the ship,” Wallace said.

The Panthers have come under fire for the loss of Moylan and Cartwright, who were granted releases just one season into lucrative five-year deals.

Cartwright joined prop Leilani Latu in moving to Gold Coast and utility Tyrone Peachey also confirmed a switch to the Titans at the end of the season.

However, Wallace urged fans not to be overly concerned by the number of players who’ve left the club.

“I’m sure some people are worried but the fact is you can’t keep them all,” Wallace said.

“Barring the Broncos, which have a monopoly on it, I’m sure we’d have the most local juniors in any other team. Unfortunately we can’t keep them all.

“That’s the salary cap and the NRL – that’s why it’s so even and you get a different premiership-winner every year. I’m disappointed when local juniors leave but that’s life.”

Wallace even suggested Moylan and Cartwright could even come back in the same way he returned home following a stint with the Broncos.

“They might well be back. They could be back in a couple of years – you just never know. I’m sure the door won’t be closed one especially those two boys,” he said.

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