May and Cleary a natural fit thanks to Holden Cup success

Tyrone May in action against the Bulldogs last week. Photo: Melinda Jane

If you ever watch a Nathan Cleary highlights tape on YouTube, you’ll notice Panthers rookie Tyrone May a fair bit also.

The talented pair combined so well during Penrith’s premiership-winning Holden Cup season in 2015, that their combination in first grade has been relatively seamless in the absence of injured five-eighth Matt Moylan.

In fact, some would argue that 19-year-old Cleary plays better alongside the Minchinbury Jets junior than the Panthers captain.

Speaking with Extra Time, 21-year-old May said working with Cleary comes “easy” and “natural”.

“We don’t really have to work on our combination too much because we’ve had it for a while,” he said.

“I know what he’s going to do, so I just follow what he does. You don’t really know coming through the ranks who’s going to play grade and who is going to go the other way; it’s just good to see Nath came through early last year and I get to make the step up and play off him again.”

May made his unexpected first grade debut three weeks ago during a cold and miserable winter’s night in Auckland.

With Moylan unavailable due to a niggling hamstring injury, May got the tap on the shoulder from Panthers coach Anthony Griffin.

“I’d been playing a few positions in reserve grade including back-row, centre and fullback but when Te Maire [Martin] left I got to play five-eighth,” May said.

“When Moyza went down, Hook said I was next in line. I was like ‘oh yeah sweet’.

“My mum and dad came over on a last minute flight to watch me play. It didn’t hit me that I was playing first grade until the warm up.”

Photo: Melinda Jane

With May’s immediate place in first grade dependent on the health of Moylan, he is hopeful of finding a place in the side in whatever position is available.

“I don’t know what the plan is… I’ll just have to see what Hook has in store for me going forward,” May said.

“If I can get bigger in size I might play more in the forwards or become a utility. I don’t mind where I play; if I get a shot I’ll try my best.”

May, who is contracted to the Panthers until the end of 2018, is a good chance of filling in for Moylan again this Sunday against the Wests Tigers.

May said while his confidence at the top level continues to grow with every game, coach Griffin wants him to put a lot of focus on his defence.

“All the attack will flow naturally because I’ve played with Nath before, so it’s really about getting my defence right and talking to my edge players in Yeo, Peach and Sauce,” he said.

“If we can get our defence right on our edge then our attack will flow naturally.”

Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.