Wayne Bennett’s heartless Nathan Cleary sledge has been exposed in a devastating new Podcast.
The Panthers playmaker has bravely opened up about the trolling and public comments that took his football life to breaking point in a Podcast released Wednesday.
The 23-year-old features in the latest episode of high performance guru Hayden Knowles’ Get the Edge Podcast where he opens up about the mental demons that swallowed him in 2019.
Among the revelations in the episode is the moment Knowles confronted Bennett about public comments he made about Cleary ahead of the 2019 State of Origin series.
It was the hardest year of Cleary’s career and he has spoken previously about how online abuse got the better of him and left him with performance anxiety before every match.
Knowles, who is now head of performance at the Panthers, says in the episode Bennett laughed off the moment he was confronted with his declarations that Cleary and Roosters playmaker James Maloney should both be sacked for the 2019 State of Origin series.
Nathan Cleary of the Panthers celebrates during the 2020 finals series.Source:Getty Images
Knowles says Bennett never cared about Cleary, and was only using him as a pawn to boost his own players with Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker both performing strongly that season.
“Wayne, at that time that Nathan’s reading s***, even you came out with s***,” Knowles said, with all due respect to the veteran coach.
“You were saying that you wouldn’t pick him as the NSW halfback. You wanted Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker.
“You don’t give a rats about Nathan Cleary. You don’t care about NSW. And he laughed and said, ‘You got me’.”
Cleary responded by saying it was the year he learned to shut out outside opinions, even from experts like Bennett.
Cleary says the torrent of online abuse left him “paralysed” that year, resulting in his form on the field being impacted.
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“It took over my mental state and it was affecting the way I was playing,” Cleary said.
“The most frustrating thing is I was reading all this stuff and it was just paralysing. It was affecting the way I was playing, which affected the team. I just wasn’t in the right state to perform well.
“It was the first time I acknowledged I had performance anxiety from reading all this stuff and putting all this pressure on myself.”
He says opening up about his problems was a turning point and it allowed him to discover how many teammates, officials and coaches were in his corner supporting him.
He says he first received online threats at the age of 18.
Since then, Cleary’s career has exploded after leading NSW to an Origin series wins in 2019 and the minor premiership with the Panthers last year.
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