Nathan Cleary will never forget his maiden premiership with the Panthers — because his huge new slice of ink won’t let him.
Nathan Cleary better hope he’s a Panther for life after unveiling a huge tattoo to commemorate his first NRL premiership.
Six years into his NRL career, the 24-year-old is one of the best players in the world and was a major part of the Panthers’ first title since 2003.
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Penrith’s 14-12 victory over the South Sydney Rabbitohs in last season’s decider finally allowed the side to fulfil its destiny as the young, mainly homegrown players shrugged off a loss to Melbourne in 2020 to lift the trophy after two years of dominance.
And to celebrate, Cleary added some ink.
Featuring a Panther’s head, the word “Champs” and ‘21, it’s a grand reminder of he and his teammates’ achievement.
However, not everyone loved the new design.
While some Panthers fans loved the image of their team mascot, others suggested the word “Champs” appeared to read “Choamps” due to the cursive writing.
Some labelled it a “drunken Picasso”, “the worst side in rugby league” and “the worst tattoo I’ve ever seen”.
But others were fans. Local Penrith journalist for the Western Weekender Nathan Taylor tweeted: “Nathan Cleary basically declaring himself a Panther for life with this incredible new piece of ink.”
At just 24, Cleary has already played 120 NRL matches, 10 State of Origin games, won the Clive Churchill Medal and looks like he could dominate the NRL for at least the next decade.
Cleary’s splurge on his new ink can be understood as well after he sacrificed plenty, having suffered a dislocated shoulder in the second State of Origin match and playing through pain until the end of the season before undergoing surgery.
Penrith legend and NSW adviser Greg Alexander revealed Cleary basically played the second half of the year with one arm.
“It’s just strapped together … the tendon was torn 80 per cent so it was just hanging,” Alexander said after the season. “They tried cortisone (injections) to try and sort of shock it into some scar tissue, to strengthen it a little bit, but I don’t think much of it worked.
“He just strapped it up and got on with it.”
Cleary is reportedly confident he’ll be right to start the new season.