Ivan Cleary confirms knowledge of Dally M leak ahead of official announcement

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Penrith coach Ivan Cleary admits he knew about the Dally M leak but chose to keep the news from his son Nathan during the virtual ceremony.

Jack Wighton’s surprise victory would have rocked the NRL world if the leak didn’t occur, with the Canberra playmaker outgunning favourite Nathan Cleary to be named the code’s best player of 2020.

Wighton’s achievement was overshadowed by the early announcement after a Daily Telegraph article detailing the massive upset was published a couple of hours before Wighton was publicly named as the winner.

None of the main contenders had a clue about the impending anti-climax as Cleary, Wighton, Clint Gutherson, James Tedesco and Luke Keary, all had their phones taken from them before the ceremony.

NRL fuming with Dally M leak blunder

All of the players claim they were none the wiser about the results as social media went into overdrive.

Penrith coach Cleary was called by a Panthers staffer earlier in the night but chose to keep the news to himself.

“I did find out [beforehand],” Cleary said.

“It would have been worse if it was the usual night. Did everyone else know?

“That’s a bummer, especially for the guys televising this and who had put so much work and effort into this. I thought they did an awesome job considering.”

Nathan said: “I didn’t know because they took our phones off us. I’m just super happy for Jack, he’s been unbelievable the last few years and especially this year. I’m super-stoked for him.”

Cleary was odds on favourite for the gong after leading Penrith to a huge unbeaten run throughout the season. However, halves partner Jerome Luai polled higher votes throughout the back end of the season. Luai finished with 17 votes and won the man-of-the-match award in the round-20 blowout victory against Canterbury.

Cleary needed to poll at least one vote against the Bulldogs to stand equal with Wighton, who was rested from the last week of the regular season.

Wighton wins the 2020 Dally M Medal

“I am just happy we had five in the Team of the Year,” said Cleary.

“It’s a team sport and more than happy for that to happen. It would make it even sweeter if we get the win on Sunday.

“It was obviously a commitment we needed to get done and it makes it extra special for grand final week. It was cool to come out here. I thought they did a good job. Now it’s full steam ahead for Sunday.’

The Panthers weren’t happy about the situation especially since the coach and halfback did a 130km round trip from Penrith to Fox Sport’s Artarmon studios on grand final week.

“Good luck to the winner, he’s a deserving winner, but to be sitting there waiting for something that has already been announced is disappointing,” Panthers Group CEO Brian Fletcher said.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V’Landys has vowed to open a probe into the leak confirming the game’s leaders will make sure a leak of any kind never happens again.

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