Rugby league legend Matty Johns believes Eels enforcer Nathan Brown has been drafted into Brad Arthur’s side for one reason — to go after Nathan Cleary.
Brown was a shock inclusion in Parramatta’s 17 to take on their cross-town rivals, with utility Bryce Cartwright dropping out of the team.
Penrith’s superstar halfback Nathan Cleary is crucial to the mountain men’s success and coaches across the competition implement strategies to dampen his influence on the contest.
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Johns, who won a premiership with the Knights in 1997, had no doubts why Brown was included in the team and Fox League’s Gorden Tallis echoed his opinion.
“No doubt he is there to go after Nathan,” he said on the Matty Johns show.
“I reckon if you ask him to do a job he will do the job, I think he is that type of player where you say ‘mate we need you for 25, 30 or 40 minutes’,” Tallis said.
“Kicking game, put him (Cleary) on the ground, Queensland did it in the State of Origin, and I know it is a different game, but I think he can do a job.”
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Brown hasn’t featured for the Eels since Round 17 and reports suggest he is on the outer as the club look to offload his contract.
The 29-year-old hasn’t appeared in a first grade clash for 12 weeks, but former Eels backrower Peter Wynn, who won three premierships, believes he could be the “X-factor”.
“He is fresh, he is ready to fire, he is tough as teak and he might be the X-factor,” Wynn said.
“The fact you have an Origin player who has played in front of a big crowd under pressure, he hasn’t played since Round 17,” Brian Fletcher added.
“I don’t think that will worry him, he will only play 30 or 40 minutes, to have someone who has played Origin in a grand final.”
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The Panthers inner sanctum reportedly recognise why Brown has been pulled from NRL exile for a grand final appearance.
Eels backrower Shaun Lane refused to single out his teammate and the only player who will be targeting the NSW halfback.
“If we do our job correctly, everyone is going to be a headache for Nathan Cleary,” Lane said on NRL360 on Tuesday.
“He’s obviously a huge part of their game plan and his kicking game speaks for itself, in the first game we really struggled putting kick pressure on him and it came up with plenty of results for them.
“It’ll be a whole team focus for us, not just for Browny.”
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