Nathan Cleary was cheering for Simon Mannering last time the Warriors made the NRL finals, but seven years on the Penrith young gun plans on sending him into retirement in tomorrow's sudden death clash at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.

Cleary was just 13 years old and living in Auckland when his dad, Ivan, coached the Warriors through their remarkable run to the 2011 grand final.

Like his father, Nathan remains an unabashed fan of Mannering, and while he admits it would be sad to see the 32-year-old Warriors back rower's career end after 301 appearances, he confesses that's exactly what the Panthers intend on doing at Homebush.

"I remember that last finals series and funnily enough I was actually cheering on the Warriors," Cleary told Radio Sport. "Simon's been an absolute Warrior.


"He's the definition of a Warrior. He's been amazing for the club and been an amazing player.

"He's probably my dad's favourite player that he's ever coached, just [because of] some of the stuff he did on the field and how tough he was.

Simon's been an absolute Warrior ... probably my dad's favourite player that he's ever coached.

"I'm pretty lucky to be playing in his last couple of games and I would be sad to send him into retirement but that's obviously our goal this weekend," said Cleary.

The 20-year-old halfback has enjoyed a stellar season in which he made his State of Origin debut in New South Wales' series win over Queensland.

Cleary is also in line to win a Kangaroos call-up for the end-of-year tests against the Kiwis and Tonga.

The majority of the Warriors squad are yet to experience finals football while Cleary is preparing for his third playoffs campaign since debuting in the NRL in 2016.

Having fond memories of the Warriors' last finals tilt, Cleary says it's hard to believe a side with so many talented players have failed to make the top eight over the last six years.

"It's amazing how long it's been," he said.


"The Warriors have always been a great team and it's always a daunting task coming up against them.

"So for them to be out of the finals for so long I'm sure they'll try and make a statement this weekend."

The Panthers looked on shaky ground after they were beaten 36-16 by the Warriors in Auckland two weeks ago but come into the finals with plenty of belief — following last week's upset win over reigning premiers the Storm in Melbourne.

"We'll take a lot of confidence out of that," he said.

"The weeks leading into that we lost a bit of confidence and to go down to Melbourne and win down there, it's only the second time in the last 19 games we'd won against them.

"So that was a massive confidence boost and a great test for the coming finals series.

"I'm really looking forward to it. The Warriors managed to get us a couple of weeks ago over there [at Mt Smart] so I'm hoping for a bit of revenge."