Penrith Panthers star Nathan Cleary has apologised for his involvement in the NRL social distancing saga, calling his actions “stupid” and “selfish”.
Cleary was fined $30,000 and handed a two-match suspension from the NRL after two TikTok video emerged of him ignoring social distancing restrictions.
The 22-year-old was caught out in an Instagram photo with a group of young women taken on Anzac Day. The NRL initially fined him $10,000 along with a one-match suspension for the images.
However, TikTok videos then surfaced of Cleary dancing with a group of girls from the same weekend, and NRL served him an amended breach notice last week.
Housemate and Panthers teammate Tyrone May has also been suspended for two weeks and fined $15,000 for his lack of co-operation with the NRL Integrity Unit during the investigation.
During an interview with the Panthers, Cleary admitted he was “embarrassed” by his behaviour, but is optimistic he can overturn his tainted reputation.
“I’m obviously pretty embarrassed by myself and not happy about what I’ve done,” Cleary said.
“I just wanted to apologise my actions, they were irresponsible, selfish and plain stupid to be honest. I brought a lot of negative attention to myself, my family, the club and the game as well – that’s what has hurt me the most.
“To move on from here, I need to realise I can’t change what has already happened – I wish I could, but the reality is I can’t. The one thing I can control is my actions moving forward.
“Someone sent me a quote the other day saying, ‘Good actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past,’ and that’s what I will be taking on board.
“This is a massive learning curve for me, I have learned a lot about myself and never want to go through this again. This can be a moment where I can kick on as a leader and a person and become better, and that’s the positive I am taking out of this.
“My actions weren’t good enough … I really want to grow as a person and a leader, they have come into question but this is an opportunity to prove some people wrong as well.
“In saying that, I owe it to a lot of people including the club and the fans that not only does my football need to do the talking, but me as a person and a leader.
“I’m looking forward to that challenge ahead, and that starts at training and once we get back onto the field.”
On Tuesday, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary confirmed his son will remain in the squad’s leadership group despite the TikTok saga.
“Rehabilitation over incarceration. He clearly is not the finished product at present but holds an important role in our club as the on field general,” Cleary told Fox Sports.
“I think it is all part of a leaders journey to make mistakes and grow from that pain.
“It is an opportunity to put real lessons into real practice.”