'Pretty crazy': Nathan Cleary eyes 11-year-old Jarryd Hayne feat

Australian Associated Press
·2-min read
Pictured here celebrating, Nathan Cleary is the favourite to win the 2020 Dally M medal.
Nathan Cleary is tipped to become the youngest Dally M winner since Jarryd Hayne in 2009. Pic: Getty

Nathan Cleary can become the youngest Dally M medal winner since Jarryd Hayne if he receives the NRL's prized individual honour on Monday night.

Cleary will enter the NRL's slimmed-down gala awards night as heavy favourite, with Jack Wighton, James Tedesco, Clint Gutherson and Cameron Smith the other likely contenders.

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It would kick off a massive week for the Penrith halfback, before his maiden grand final on Sunday night against Melbourne.

Cleary's dad Ivan is the frontrunner to be coach of the year, with Craig Bellamy, Ricky Stuart and Todd Payten his chief rivals.

Nathan Cleary was two points behind Harry Grant when voting went behind closed doors at the end of round 10.

However, unlike Grant and most of those around him, he played every match from that point on as the Panthers went through the remainder of the season unbeaten.

At age 22, Cleary would be the youngest winner since Hayne claimed the award courtesy of his famous end-of-season run in 2009 as a 21-year-old.

Jarryd Hayne is seen here with his Dally M medal in 2009.
Jarryd Hayne was just 21 when he won his first Dally M award. Pic: Getty

Cleary focused on ‘bigger things’ than Dally M

"If I was to win it, it'd be pretty crazy and pretty special," Cleary said.

"But I've got bigger things on my mind

"I've always wanted to play in a grand final. To be able to do it with dad, it's pretty special.

"It's a unique experience, but it's more than that.

"Just being a part of this group, the relationships we've all formed, it's pretty special."

If Cleary does win, he'll become the first Penrith player in 35 years to claim the award, after Greg Alexander in 1985.

Craig Gower missed out in 2003 but only after a pay dispute between the players and the league resulted in the awards being called off.

Voting was not conducted in the final round of that season after the ceremony was called off, and Gower's win was therefore not confirmed.

It's believed the NRL have not entirely ruled out revisiting the issue in the future.

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