Penrith will pursue the path of rehabilitation rather than season-ending surgery for star halfback Nathan Cleary as he attempts to beat a shoulder injury.
Cleary was injured in NSW’s series-defining State of Origin win over Queensland on Sunday, putting the remainder of his season in doubt.
But Penrith believe they will be able to manage the injury without surgery and instead rest him for four weeks, avoiding what could have been a catastrophic blow to their title hopes.
“Having now received specialist medical advice, the club believes a period of rehabilitation is the best course of action at this point in time,” Penrith said in a statement.
The injury means Cleary will definitely miss Origin III, with Mitch Moses, Adam Reynolds and Jack Wighton the early frontrunners to replace him.
The Panthers were already weighing up resting Cleary for Friday night against Parramatta anyway.
They have the bye in round 17 and there is every chance he would have missed the following week’s game against the Warriors after Origin III if not for the injury.
The club does have until the end of July to sign a replacement player for Cleary, and they would be able to claim $350,000 in salary cap dispensation if he does not return given the injury was suffered in Origin.
Meanwhile fullback Dylan Edwards’ foot injury is not considered serious enough to rule him out long-term.
The Panthers have decided to rest him against the Eels and give him three weeks off through byes after battling through the majority of the season with the injury.