Penrith Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary has impressed everyone in rugby league and even his opposition teammates during his first two seasons in the NRL Telstra Premiership.
So what drives the 19-year-old on gameday, and what does he get up to before a game?
NRL.com sat down with Cleary to discuss his pre-game rituals and how he prepares ahead of the all-important semi-final clash with the Brisbane Broncos on Friday night.
“The wake-up varies at times depending on when our game is on. Usually I like to sleep in as much as possible so around 10am is good and I appreciate that late start to the day. I’ll go downstairs for breakfast, usually eat something light, and then get ready for the team walk with the boys. We all have a stretch after that and then it’s usually lunchtime. Our staff at Penrith will give us a schedule for what time to be ready to travel from the game and we go from there.”
“It’s a free rein for the rest of the day, after the team walk and stretch with everyone we can do what we like. I usually do my own thing, some of the other guys might go out for another walk or be around each other but I tend to keep to myself.
“I’ll head back to my room and watch a movie or whatever is on the television at the time – even a footy game. I love watching footy and always have. I know some people try to avoid watching it but that doesn’t change me on a gameday and if anything it probably calms me a bit more.
“I don’t mind watching TV series either; I’m into Dexter at the moment. If I’ve still got time after that, I’ll have another sleep then go find more food or go over the game plan.”
Travel to game
“When I see all the boys downstairs in their uniforms ready to go, that’s when I know it’s game time. It kind of like switches me on.
“I don’t listen to music on the way to the stadium, I more think about the game ahead and try to calm the nerves as best as possible.
“I’ll walk in to the sheds and set up, put my boots out, grab a water and head out onto the field and watch the under 20s game. There are a few of our boys that will pass the ball around during half time to keep relaxed.
“After that we all head back inside, have another stretch and get strapped up which for me at the moment is a fair amount. I try and fit in a massage and then it’s warm up.”
“We all will do recovery, and have something to eat. Sometimes we debrief if we’re away or have a few quiet beers with the boys if we get the result. It can make sleeping a bit easier too depending on the result. A lot of players and myself especially can think of what we could’ve done better after a loss.
“I like the routine I’ve got and if we win, I usually like to stick to that. But if we lose I’ll try and change some little things.
“My undies though will always stay the same.”