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It’s the vibe: Perplexed Panthers turn coach into lawyer for a night

Panthers officials were on Monday reciting famous lawyer quotes from movies to assist Cleary in his preparation for the Judiciary Zoom meeting. The last known time a coach represented a player was in the early 2000s when Matthew Elliott represented Simon Woolford at the Raiders.

Penrith great Greg Alexander applauded Cleary for putting his hand up to fight for Koroisau, and said it reminded him of the night then-Panthers coach Phil Gould did likewise for him more than 30 years ago.

Api Koroisau sparked a melee when he ran in and pushed Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Api Koroisau sparked a melee when he ran in and pushed Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.Credit:NRL Photos

“I was playing fullback back in 1990, [Balmain’s] James Grant made a break and chipped over the top, I went for the ball but coat-hangered him,” Alexander said.

“Gus played lawyer that night and got me exonerated. He was pretty good. Gus has done everything in the game, but not many would know he also acted as lawyer for his players on occasion. It’s worth Ivan having a crack, definitely. It’s only a minor charge, so it’s worth the fight.

“Ivan will be passionate about the cause. He’ll present a good case. He might do enough to sway the judging panel.”

Panthers CEO Brian Fletcher said: “It’s great he feels for our players and if he can help them in any way it will be his pleasure to do so.

“He’s untrained as a lawyer, but he’ll do a good job – he may even do a better job because he knows more about the game.”

It comes as the Penrith Panthers hope to receive a major double boost on their run home into the finals, with Pangai Junior and Nathan Cleary in line to play this weekend.

Nathan has convinced club medical staff that he is ready to return from a shoulder injury, and would have been fit to play against the Roosters last weekend if the Panthers wanted to roll the dice.

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The NSW halfback even completed a full contact session with players running at him during an opposed training run last week, but the coach opted against risking his superstar No.7.

The Panthers will again take a cautious approach with Cleary and will wait until the 11th hour before deciding whether he will play against the St George Illawarra Dragons on Friday night.

Sources with knowledge of Cleary’s recovery say the Panthers are leaning towards playing him against the Dragons.

The Herald can also reveal that Pangai Junior will return to the team’s base on the Sunshine Coast as early as Tuesday and play his first game for the club this Friday night.

The former Broncos forward was granted compassionate leave last week to be with his partner after she suffered a miscarriage of the pair’s first child.

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