Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Cleary was cautious when discussing his motivation, declaring his belief that Johnathan Thurston and Andrew Johns are the greatest but said “it’s something I want for myself”.
Slater, who has coached against Cleary as boss of the Queensland Maroons, didn’t believe the Panthers halfback had claims as the greatest just yet but explained he’s on the way there.
“I think he has the potential to have one of the all time great resumes in our game,” he said on Nine’s The Billy Slater podcast.
“When you talk about the all time greats of our game in and around that position, and I think you’ve got to talk about greats of our game in the position that they play because the different positions are so different … they have different strengths and they have different weaknesses.”
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The former Kangaroos, Queensland and Melbourne fullback went on to compare Cleary’s game to that of Johns, Thurston and Allan Langer, indicating he hasn’t reached those heights yet.
“You look at Andrew Johns, you look at Johnathan Thurston, I think Nathan Cleary will have the same resume as those guys when he finishes playing, they’re different players but,” he added.
“I think Nathan’s a lot more structured than an Andrew Johns or Johnathan Thurston or Allan Langer, I think those guys could see the game a little bit different and they had a different instinctive skillset whereas Nathan is in a team that’s so structured and he’s so comfortable with the players around him and he knows where everyone’s going to be.
“He can just pull the strings and control the game so it’s a little bit premature to talk about that but he’s certainly on the way to creating a resume that is as good as a lot of the other halfbacks in our game.”
At 25 years of age Cleary has already played in three NRL grand finals, winning two, and has a mortgage on the NSW Blues and Kangaroos jumpers at the moment.
He is being widely tipped to lead the Panthers to a fourth successive grand final, and possibly a third premiership next week.