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Cleary buoyant about Penrith's future

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary paid tribute to his side's efforts for the season despite Canterbury ending their NRL finals hopes at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
Cleary buoyant about Penrith's future
by AAP

By Ian McCullough

SYDNEY, Aug 31 AAP - Penrith coach Ivan Cleary paid tribute to his side's efforts for the season despite Canterbury ending their NRL finals hopes at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.

The Panthers led 14-12 at halftime before slumping to a 34-14 defeat after the hosts improved dramatically in the second period.

Had they held on for the win Cleary's side would have travelled to Brookvale next Sunday knowing victory over Manly could have ensured a top-eight finish.

Cleary admitted a Canterbury try right on the stroke of halftime did affect his side, but had no complaints with the efforts shown by his players.

"We started well and pretty much throughout the game I felt we created plenty of opportunities," he said.

"The try on halftime was significant ... it was a tough one. We felt we played well enough to go in the sheds leading by more than two. Momentum was big there."

Considering they were written off as wooden spoon certainties at the start of the year after offloading star players Luke Lewis, Michael Jennings and Michael Gordon, Cleary, who signed a new contract this week, has worked wonders with the Panthers.

In addition to losing his three best players, Cleary has been without the likes of Sam McKendry, Lachlan Coote and Josh Mansour for much of the year due to injuries.

But they've been more than competitive and made a mockery of those who tipped his team to finish last.

And with the likes of Jamie Soward, Brent Kite, Elijah Taylor and Peter Wallace joining next season to play alongside the exciting James Segeyaro and Matt Moylan, the coach said the future's bright.

"It's been an improvement on last year and we're improving as a club," Cleary said.

"In that sense, I wouldn't know if I would say it's been successful, but it's definitely been close to the mark.

"We've exceeded a lot of people's expectations and I think we are only going to get better."




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