‘He’d be open to a switch’: Rugby Australia want NRL star Nathan Cleary
As the code war between the NRL and rugby union continues to dominate sports headlines Down Under, Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has added more fuel to the fire.
According to The Australian, RA have included Penrith Panthers star Nathan Cleary in their list of “definite” targets.
While other State of Origin stars were included in the list, including Brisbane Broncos enforcer Payne Haas, Cleary is potentially the most intriguing.
The two-time premiership winner is considered to be among the best players in the NRL, and is coming off a successful Rugby League World Cup campaign with Australia last year.
But Cleary, who grew up idolising All Blacks legend Dan Carter, hasn’t ruled out a stunning switch to rugby union “somewhere down the track.”
In an interview with Nine News last month, Cleary hinted at a potential future in rugby union – although the Penrith Panthers star insisted he was “happy” in league for now.
But those comments have clearly caught the attention of the Wallabies and Rugby Australia, as chairman Hamish McLennan discussed.
“Nathan Cleary wasn’t on the original list as we thought he’d be untouchable, but he said he’d be open to a switch,” McLennan said, as reported by The Australian.
“I’d forgotten he’d spent time growing up in New Zealand, so he appreciate the game and gets it.
“Imagine him running out in front of 85,000 people wearing Wallaby gold at Stade de France. Mind-blowing.”
Earlier this week, McLennan confirmed his interest in New South Wales Blues prop Payne Haas.
Haas, who has been the form forward of the competition for a number of years now, is set to come off contract with the Brisbane Broncos after the 2024 season.
After securing the services of Sydney Roosters flyer Joseph Suaalii on a lucrative deal, McLennan said that Haas “could definitely be wearing Wallaby gold” in the future.
“Payne could definitely be wearing Wallaby gold,” McLennan told The Daily Telegraph.
“We really like Payne. He has a strong rugby pedigree and it’s probably time for him to spread his wings and do something really special.
“The Broncos are great – but playing for the Wallabies against the British (and Irish) Lions would be even better. By playing rugby, Payne can see the world.”
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