NRL: Cleary 'disappointed' by Lewis move

By James MacSmith

Luke Lewis is moving on. Photo / Getty Images.
Luke Lewis is moving on. Photo / Getty Images.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary says he is disappointed in the decision by Luke Lewis to leave the NRL club and is still coming to terms with the New South Wales back-rower's shock departure.

In granting the State of Origin player a release from the final two years of his contract with the Panthers, Cleary said the club had taken into account all Lewis had done for Penrith, but was still surprised at what had occurred.

"If you had asked me six months ago, I would have thought you were crazy," Cleary said.

"But that's the way things have gone down. He is not the first player in his position to leave a club and he won't be the last. But he has made his mind up and that's what he wanted and that's what has happened.

"It is important now for everybody to move on and look to the future," he said.

Lewis has conducted himself professionally throughout discussions with the club and on the training field since the announcement of his departure, Cleary said, but there remained nonetheless a wider sense of disappointment at the club regarding his departure.

"I think everybody involved with the club is disappointed, naturally," Cleary said.

"It's been done and we have to move on. I have to say he has been very professional this week, once it had been sorted out, and he is going back to what he does best and that is football."

Cleary said he had spoken regularly with his former captain Lewis since taking over as Panthers coach for the 2012 season. And while he had not expected Lewis' departure, the club could now look forward to the rest of the year and beyond.

"We have spoken a lot over the last few months over where he was and what he wanted to do and, for a bloke who has done so much for this club as he has, we respect his wishes," Cleary said.

"Things have taken their course - this is what he wanted to do. He will move on and we will move on."

- AAP

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