Social media sleuths reckon they've found proof that Nathan Cleary is dating Mary Fowler after the Penrith Panthers star attended the Matildas game in Perth on Sunday. Cleary was snapped in a photo with fans as he made his way into Optus Stadium to watch the Matildas take on the Philippines in their Olympic qualifier.
Cleary's attendance has fuelled the rumours that he's in a relationship with Fowler, who was in action during the Matildas' 8-0 win. A photo emerged in September showing Cleary on a walk with Fowler - reportedly taken one day after the Matildas' win over Denmark in the round of 16 at the Women's World Cup.
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The pair were also seen enjoying an ice cream together after taking part in a photo shoot for Adidas. Cleary's camp has previously moved to quash any speculation of a budding romance, and the Clive Churchill Medallist described the rumours as "annoying".
EXCLUSIVE: It’s on! Nathan Cleary is spotted cheering on his rumoured love interest Mary Fowler as the Matildas star plays in Perth
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“It is what is, it’s a little bit annoying to not have a private life but I like to not talk about it too much and keep anything I can private,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “Things take off pretty quick with social media, but I’ll try to keep as private life if I can.”
Tellingly, Cleary also bemoaned the hate directed against his all-conquering Panthers to some of the backlash directed at the Matildas. “Not long ago with the Matildas, everyone got around them, it was a great thing for the country to come together," he said. "But as soon as they lost, there were people nitpicking it instead of appreciating it for what it was.”
The 'Hello Sport Podcast' first fuelled the rumours of a romance between Cleary and Fowler when the ice cream rendezvous captured their attention. Host Tom Birmingham said: "Now they’re both sponsored by Adidas and they were maybe doing a function. But you have an ice-cream with someone, that’s saying something. You may as well be holding hands. We haven’t got a power couple do we at the moment?”
Co-host Eddy Simpson said with tongue in cheek: “Unless they’re doing an ice cream commercial, they’re essentially dating." Birmingham joked: “That’s a smooch basically. It’s the culinary smooch, if you’re sharing an ice cream.”
Nathan Cleary and Mary Fowler would be a sporting power couple
Cleary is currently rehabbing a knee injury he suffered in the NRL grand final, which ruled him out of the Pacific Championship Test matches. The halfback won the Clive Churchill Medal after steering the Panthers to an incredible comeback victory over the Broncos to secure Penrith's third-straight premiership.
As for Fowler, she played another starring role as the Matildas all-but secured their passage into the next round of Olympic qualifying. In front of a sell-out crowd of 59,155, Fowler opened the scoring in the 15th minute before Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord both scored hat-tricks.
The win has thrust the Matildas to the top of Group A on six points, meaning all they need is a draw against Taiwan at HBF Park on Wednesday night to guarantee progression to the final stage of qualification in February. Even with a loss the Matildas would either top the group or at least qualify as the best runner-up from the three Asian confederation groups.
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