‘What a FARCE!’: Furious fans blast the NRL after ‘protected species’ Nathan Cleary dodges suspension for ugly tackle on Billy Walters, with Penrith star picking up ‘ashtray change’ $1000 fine after signing new $5.5m deal
- Cleary dodged a suspension for his twisting, wrestling tackle on Walters
- Fans are fuming and have hit social media in waves to slam the NRL
- NRL commentators believed Cleary should have been suspended for the tackle
- There are fears it opens the door for more wrestling to enter the NRL
Is Penrith Panthers captain Nathan Cleary a protected species? NRL fans certainly think so after the escaped suspension for an ugly tackle on Broncos rival Billy Walters in Friday night’s 40-12 win at BlueBet Stadium.
Cleary signed a new contract at the Panthers worth $5.5 million over five years this week to lock the star half at Penrith until the end of the 2027 season.
However celebrations were put on ice when he placed on report in the 65th minute of the club’s big win over the Broncos.
Cleary latches onto Walters, wrestling him and twisting him around to bring him to ground
Walters body twisted awkwardly in the tackle and his head and neck hit the turf hard
The incident resulted in a grade one dangerous contact charge for Cleary, with a fine ranging between $1000 and $1500 depending on his plea.
NRL fans were quick to vent their disgust on social media, labelling Cleary a ‘protected species’, calling the star halfback the NRL’s ‘golden boy’, slamming the outcome as a ‘farce’ and brushing off the punishment as ‘ashtray change’.
‘Biggest joke. If Walters breaks a leg, or does knee/ankle, it would be weeks. Get that sort of crap out of the game,’ one fan fumed on Twitter.
‘[Bulldogs forward] Jack Hetherington would have copped 8 weeks,’ pointed out another.
Cleary remonstrates with referee Adam Gee during the clash against the Broncos. He was placed on report in the 65th minute for his tackle on Walters.
Claims of favouritism toward certain players were a common thread in the online outrage.
‘Dangerous tackle for sure. Look at the photo!! If it was [South Sydney fullback] Latrell [Mitchell] he’d get 4 weeks. Nathan Cleary will be playing next week,’ one fan posted.
‘Nathan Cleary won’t even get a fine – the NRL will find a way to blame Billy Walters for the tackle,’ predicted another before the charge sheet was released.
Another common theme was concerns that more wrestling techniques would creep into the game if they weren’t stamped out immediately.
‘If the league is serious about players health and safety , when things like this happen regardless of the status in the game they should be made example of,’ a fan said on Facebook.
‘It continues to happen in the game, if players start seeing long suspensions and by long i mean 6-12 weeks even longer only then they might think twice before acting certain ways.’
NRL Immortal Andrew Johns labelled the wrestling tactic as dangerous on Nine’s post-game coverage.
‘I think it’s dangerous, I think it’s really dangerous,’ he said.
‘It’s not a hip-drop – and they have so many different terminologies for different wrestling moves – but that is dangerous.”
Queensland Origin coach and fellow commentator Billy Slater also thought Cleary might have copped a suspension.
“I think he’s in a little bit of trouble. Whether he misses a week I’m not too sure, but it didn’t look good, the way he fell, he said.
Darren Lockyer said the tackling technique was becoming more commonplace.
‘I think he’ll be in a little bit of trouble because of how Billy Walters falls to the ground, but I’ve seen quite a few players sort of wrap that leg around to try and bring them to ground,’ he said,
But coach Ivan Cleary said the matter shouldn’t be of much concern.
‘I don’t know what he’s gone on report for, it wasn’t a hip drop, it definitely wasn’t a hip drop – it was a one-man tackle,’ Cleary said afterwards.
‘It was more like a Cumberland throw, maybe.’