1 March 1971 |
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|Height||182 cm (6 ft 0 in)|
|Weight||89 kg (14 st 0 lb)|
Ivan Cleary (born 1 March 1971) is an Australian rugby league football coach and former player. He is the current head coach of the Penrith Panthers of the National Rugby League and former head coach of the New Zealand Warriors where he achieved much success. As a player, Cleary was a goal-kicking fullback who played club football in Australia and New Zealand, setting a new record for most points scored in a season during the 1998 NRL Premiership.
Cleary grew up in the Sydney Northern Beaches' suburb of Beacon Hill, New South Wales where he played schoolboy soccer, and senior cricket in the Manly Warringah Cricket Association, before pursuing a career in rugby league.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Originally a goal-kicking fullback, Cleary was a Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles junior before moving to play Reserve Grade with the Sea Eagles in 1992 and 1993. He started his first grade career with the Sea Eagles in 1992 playing two games before getting his chance after the team's first choice fullback Matthew Ridge suffered a season-ending injury in mid-1993. Cleary filled the custodian spot well and also proved himself an accurate goal-kicker, ably filling in for Ridge on both counts and helping Many to 4th place and a finals berth where they were bundled out 4-16 by the Brisbane Broncos in the Qualifying Final.
In his 15 first grade games for Manly, Cleary scored 8 tries and kicked 50 goals (from 71 attempts for 70.4%) for a total of 132 points.
North Sydney Bears
With Ridge set to return in 1994 Cleary signed with Manly's local rivals the North Sydney Bears for 1994 and 1995 seasons where he mainly played in the centres due to the emergence of fullback Matt Seers. He also was the team's 2nd choice goal kicker behind Jason Taylor and in 37 games for the Bears he scored 15 tries but kicked only 5 goals (from 6 attempts) for a total of 70 points.
Seeking the opportunity to play fullback Cleary signed for the Sydney City Roosters from 1996. While playing for the Roosters in 1998 (ironically playing all bar one game in the centres), Cleary was the NRL's leading point scorer with 284 points, breaking the record of for most points in a season (282) set by Mick Cronin in 1978. In his record breaking season Cleary scored 13 tries and kicked 116 goals (from 145 attempts) from his 27 games to become the first Roosters player since Michael Eden in 1983 to be a season's leading point scorer. After dislocating his hip in the 1999 pre-season, Cleary didn't return until round 17, playing only 9 games and scoring 62 points from 4 tries and 23 goals.
In 81 games for the Roosters (40 each at fullback and centre, once on the wing), Cleary scored 29 tries and kicked 303 goals from 405 attempts (74.8%) for a total of 722 points. This puts him fourth on the Roosters all time point scoring list behind Craig Fitzgibbon (1,476), Allan McKean (903) and John Brass (731). His 284 points in 1998 is also the single season point scoring record for the Sydney Roosters.
New Zealand Warriors
In 2000 Cleary left the Roosters for his fourth club when he signed to play for the Auckland Warriors but his 2000 season turned out worse than 1999 when he only played in 5 games for his new club, soring 1 try and kicking 10 goals. He would play for the Warriors (renamed the New Zealand Warriors from 2001) until the end of 2002. Cleary retired from playing following the Warriors 8-30 loss to the Roosters in the 2002 NRL Grand Final. He retired as the Warriors all-time leading points scorer with 439 points from 11 tries, 195 goals and 1 field goal in his 53 games for the club.
Ivan Cleary played 186 first grade games for four different clubs over his 11-year career. During that time he crossed for 64 tries, kicked 553 goals from 721 attempts (76.7%) and kicked 1 field goal for a total of 1,363 points.
After leaving the Warriors Cleary originally intended to join the Huddersfield Giants in the European Super League but instead retired to take up an opportunity to join the Sydney Roosters as the NSWRL Premier League coach. In 2004 he coached the team to the Premiership.
New Zealand Warriors
In 2008 Cleary coached the Warriors to the NRL Finals, qualifying in 8th place, meaning they had to front up against the first-placed Melbourne Storm at Olympic Park in the first week of the playoffs. A near impossible task as the Storm had only lost 2 matches at this venue in 3 seasons (one to the Warriors in 2006), and since the McIntyre System was introduced in 1999 no 8th placed team had ever beaten the 1st placed team. After a tense and close battle, The Warriors produced one of the biggest upsets since 1999 by beating the Storm 18-15 with a 78th minute try to Michael Witt. This was by far the biggest success of Ivan Cleary's coaching career so far. This gave them a home Semi Final against the Sydney Roosters. A pro-crowd of 25,585 turned up to Mt. Smart to see the Warriors win 30-13 (thus partially avenging the 2002 Grand Final loss). This gave them a Preliminary Final against the Manly Sea Eagles in Sydney. Unfortunately for the Warriors, Manly won through to the Grand Final 32-6, ending the Warriors season.
The 2009 season was Cleary's worst season at the club, with the Warriors recording a lowly 14th place finish at the end of the season, just ahead of Cronulla and the Roosters. 2010 saw Cleary turn the team around and the Warriors were back in the finals, finishing 5th at the end of the regular season. This saw the Warriors assigned a tough away final on the Gold Coast against the Gold Coast Titans. The Warriors lost 28-16, but due to other unfavourable results occurring on the weekend, the Warriors were eliminated from the finals race.
After he was released from the final year of his Warriors contract, on 29 June 2011 Cleary was signed by the Penrith Panthers' newly appointed football manager Phil Gould, who was Cleary's coach when he played for the Roosters, to a three-year deal starting in 2012.
The Warriors then defied the odds to reach the 2011 NRL Grand Final against Cleary's original club the Manly Sea Eagles. Manly jumped out to 12-2 lead at half time but NZ fought back in a spirited second half comeback before finally going down 24-10 in front of 81,988 fans, more than half of whom were supporting the Warriors, at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.
Ivan Cleary departed the New Zealand Warriors as the club's longest serving coach having coached the team for six seasons from 2006-11. Over that time the Warriors compiled a 68-66-3 W-L-D record from 137 games with Cleary in charge.
Penrith Panthers football operations manager Phil Gould cited Cleary's ability with developing junior players as a reason for bringing him to Penrith in 2012. Early season injuries and some poor form from the Panthers have seen a tough start to Cleary's return to Sydney with Penrith sitting 15th after Round 19 of the 2012 NRL season with a 4-13 record.
- Warriors coach Ivan Cleary - who is he really? Sunday Star-Times, 21 September 2008
New Zealand Warriors
Most points in an NRL season