200 matches [2012-2015; 2019]
122 wins, 76 losses, 1 draw
Former fullback at four clubs from 1992 to 2002 before heading into coaching, starting in the lower grades at the Sydney Roosters before being head coach at the New Zealand Warriors.
He joined Penrith on the back of guiding the Warriors to the 2011 NRL grand final but his first season in charge at Penrith saw them finish second last.
The tide started turning in 2013, guiding a team that showed plenty of grit and heart but still finishing outside the 8.
In 2014, despite being injury-ravaged, he led them to fall one game short of what would have been a remarkable grand final appearance. This resulted in Cleary being awarded the Dally M coach of the year.
The injury curse continued in 2015 but the Panthers were not able to repeat the feat, finishing 11th. Despite the mitigating circumstances, Cleary was sacked at the end of the season, and replaced by Anthony Griffin for the 2016 season.
He would later be appointed head coach at the Wests Tigers mid-way through the 2017 season.
However, when Griffin was sacked in August 2018 there was speculation that Cleary may return to Penrith in 2019 in an attempt to retain his son Nathan at the Panthers. This speculation was soon confirmed when he was released from his Tigers contract and returned to Penrith.
His first season back at Penrith started slowly amid off field issues and whilst there was a seven match winning streak mid season ultimately saw Penrith miss the finals for the first time since 2015.
A steady start in 2020 exploded after the COVID-19 enforced hiatus as the Panthers won their last 15 matches of the regular season and secure their third minor premiership. This saw him win his second Dally M coach of the year award, and whilst the Panthers qualified for the grand final, they were humbled by Melbourne.
He was able to maintain a high winning percentage in 2021, as a 12 match winning streak to start the season finished in a 21-3 season, the most number of wins by a Penrith team in the regular season. Late in the season, he overtook Royce Simmons to be the outright leader in most matches coached at Penrith. In his 369th match he became a premiership winning coach – a record number of matches in Australian rugby league.
In 2022, he became the first Panthers coach to win two premierships – the grand final also marked another milestone, being the first to be the head coach for 200 first grade matches. In April, he extended his contract (alongside his son Nathan) to the end of the 2027 season.
Last updated 9 December 2022