Richmond help NRL's Cleary kick clear

Nathan Cleary has detailed how a session with AFL club Richmond improved his kicking game, booting four 40-20s this year after barely kicking one previously.

NATHAN CLEARY of the Panthers kicks during the NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Pepper Stadium Sydney, Australia.
NATHAN CLEARY of the Panthers kicks during the NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Pepper Stadium Sydney, Australia. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

Nathan Cleary has revealed how a pre-season session with Richmond AFL star Trent Cotchin helped develop his kicking game.

Cleary is easily the form half of 2020 and would have likely swept to a Dally M medal if not for a six-point penalty for a suspension out of the COVID break.

While his work close to the line has been exemplary with an NRL-high 39 try involvements, his control of the game is often underrated.

The 22-year-old kicks to space better than most halves in the competition and leads the NRL for kick metres with an average of 508 per game.

He has also had double the amount of 40-20s of any other player, kicking four already this year after booting just one in four seasons before this year.

Cleary attributes that success to a trip to Richmond's AFL headquarters in February for a session with former Brownlow Medallist Cotchin and their kicking coach.

"It was just little subtle things and I tried to integrate that into my own training in the pre-season," Cleary said.

"It was more about the longer kicks, so just trying to get that into my own game.

"I said to him on the longer kicks I try and kick them too hard and the head comes up a bit sometimes.

"And he showed me a few subtle kicks about it. I think that and confidence is just a big aspect of my kicking game this year."

The session was organised by Penrith's head of performance Hayden Knowles, with fellow football staffer Tom Lovell also in attendance.

Leadership was also high on the agenda, with Cleary having taken on a far more senior role at the Panthers this year with James Maloney gone.

The NSW State of Origin halfback is the natural leader of the next generation at the club and is one of their most experienced despite his age.

"I wanted to take that on board. It was a super-cool day, obviously they're so successful," Cleary said.

"Any time you can talk to someone, a good leader. It's always something I want to do and take on board.

"It was the first time I have seen outside of rugby league as well."