Panthers fans haven’t seen the last of Tyrone May in first grade – that’s according to his long-time friend and teammate Nathan Cleary.
The 24-year-old utility, who started in place of Cleary in Penrith’s two recent losses, was dropped to the extended bench for Friday night’s must-win clash against the Sydney Roosters at BlueBet Stadium.
It will mark the first time all season that May, a Minchinbury Jets junior, won’t feature in the NRL.
Speaking with the Weekender on Wednesday, Cleary said his housemate is determined to regain his spot in the side after a less than desirable few weeks as starting half.
“T-May is doing alright, he’s one of those guys that will see this as an opportunity to get better,” he said.
“It’s always disappointing when you get dropped but I’ve got full faith that he’ll do really well in NSW Cup and try and work his way back in.”
The Samoan international will be replaced on the interchange bench by fellow local junior Izack Tago, who scored his first NRL try during last week’s nail-biting loss to the Sharks.
Cleary said the 19-year-old backrower deserved to be picked this week after his eye-catching performance against Cronulla.
“T-May not being there is probably more of a case of Izack Tago working his way into the side after a great performance on Friday,” he said.
“He’s a really exciting young talent and it’s good to see him get another start.”
Meanwhile, Cleary will play his first game since Penrith’s disappointing two-game losing streak started when he lines up against the fifth-placed Sydney Roosters on Friday.
The 23-year-old NSW halfback, who suffered a nasty cut under his right eye during Origin I, was one of five Panthers players who didn’t back up from the battle in Townsville 48 hours earlier.
Cleary confirmed he’s a certain starter in Friday’s blockbuster game, even though he’ll still be sporting several stitches on his face.
“It’s absolutely fine, I have full vision and I usually forget about it until I look in the mirror,” he laughed.
“I couldn’t back up last week, I just think it was a bit of a worry because if I copped another knock, it would split again and who knows what would’ve happened.
“I think I’ll probably play the game with the stitches in but it’s pretty healed over now, so I’m not too worried about it.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.