Rugby league: Australia's Nathan Cleary ruled out of Pacific Championship

  • 05/10/2023
Nathan Cleary after winning the NRL Grand Final last month.
Nathan Cleary after winning the NRL Grand Final last month. Photo credit: Getty Images

Penrith Panthers' NRL Grand Final hero Nathan Cleary has been ruled out of the upcoming Pacific Championships due to injury.

Cleary was named in the Australia squad for the tri-series, which also features New Zealand and Samoa, to be hosted on both sides of the Tasman starting October 21.

The halfback has succumbed to a knee injury he sustained during their comeback win over Brisbane Broncos and has now been officially withdrawn from the 21-strong squad. Cronulla Sharks' Nicho Hynes steps in as his replacement.

Cleary's absence means Daly Cherry-Evans will reclaims the No. 7 jersey he missed out on at last year's World Cup.

The injury occurred during a tackle from Broncos forward Payne Haas. He remained on the field to engineer the biggest comeback in Grand Final history, scoring the decisive try in the 26-22 win. Cleary won the Clive Churchill Medal as the game's best player.

The injury isn’t considered serious and will afford the playmaker a longer off-season after three long seasons, each of which have ended with an NRL title.

On Wednesday, coach Michael Maguire named seven new players in a depleted NZ Kiwis squad.

Australia face Samoa in the tournament opener on October 14 in Townsville, before a clash with New Zealand on October 28 in Melbourne and the final in Hamilton on November 4.