Rugby league legend Peter Sterling praised Ivan Cleary’s ability to learn from the past and to absorb ideas from others en route to his maiden premiership success.
The Panthers scored a gritty 14-12 grand final victory over South Sydney at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, a year after falling to Melbourne in the decider.
“The monkey’s off the back, isn’t it?” Sterling said on Wide World of Sports’ Sterlo’s Wrap.
“Sometimes that’s just the way rugby league treats you. His son, Nathan, at the end of the game was asked how do you feel and he said ‘well we’ve climbed Everest’ – and that’s what you do to win a premiership.
“There are so many teams and players who don’t reach the summit.”
Sterling said it was well deserved for Ivan Cleary after a long career as both player and coach, and two grand final losses before winning this one.
“I’m a big fan of Ivan Cleary. I like his demeanour – I think to be a successful coach you’ve got to make sure that the emotions don’t ride too high.
“He’s a pretty nondescript kind of guy, Ivan, things are never as bad as they seem and they’re never as good as they seem. Although, it seems pretty good for them now.”
Sterling praised the strategy from Penrith over the finals series, not just against Souths but in their narrow wins over Melbourne and Parramatta as well.
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In particular, he referenced Stephen Crichton’s try against the Storm, and a scrum play from the grand final that was reminiscent of Cronulla in 2016.
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In that game, Sharks captain Paul Gallen picked the ball up at lock and threw an inside pass to Ben Barba – who was packed down in the second row despite being a fullback – to score. On Sunday, Penrith attempted similar but it was read well in defence by the Rabbitohs.
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“Just catching them completely by surprise – here we see Penrith come up with the same play in the course of this game,” Sterling said while watching the Panthers replay.
“Everyone’s expecting them to go out wide, read very well by South Sydney I have to say, but it’s just a little bit of an insight into the preparation that goes into these games, and what coaches are looking for, just trying to get some advantage – and it’s seeing something that another team has done, why not see if you can take advantage of it?”
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