‘Dazed’ Cleary in doubt for grand final rematch as Burton saga heats up

Jarome Luai has thrown serious doubt on whether Nathan Cleary will be fit to return for Thursday night’s grand final rematch, revealing the skipper told him he felt “dazed” following the high shot that ended his afternoon on Saturday.

Cleary was taken off for a HIA during the 70th minute of the Panthers’ round two win over the Bulldogs at Bankwest Stadium following a careless high tackle from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

Nathan Cleary is helped to his feet after a careless high tackle.Credit:Getty

Burton has been promised more time in first grade with the Belmore club than what he has been given at Penrith. The Panthers are said to be hanging out for a suitable player swap deal.

The tug-of-war over Burton last month became so fierce that Canterbury’s major sponsor Arthur Laundy weighed into the discussion, accusing Penrith of selfishness over their reluctance to hand over the youngster.

“Let him go, they are standing in a young person’s way,” Laundy said.

“If Matt Burton isn’t going play first grade then we should have Matt Burton over at Canterbury, where, I believe, he is a certainty to play first grade.”

After Saturday’s game, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said the comments were unfair.

“To say we’re not thinking of the kid is wrong,” he said.

“Would he prefer to play first grade? Of course he would. But he’s played a grand total of 11 reserve grade games and maybe six or seven first grade games. That’s it. He’s just turned 21, he’s got the world at his feet and who knows, the Dogs might actually thank us this time next year.

Cleary said there was also a time during the pre-season that he expressed concern to Burton, who he believed was becoming “distracted” by the contract saga.

“There was a period in the pre-season where I thought he was a bit distracted,” Cleary said.

“We spoke and I think since then I reckon he’s been really good.

“I don’t know if he’s getting dialogue from Canterbury or what but all I can see if he’s happy, he’s training hard and he’s playing well.”

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