Penrith culture can fire up Pangai: Cleary

Ivan Cleary is hoping Penrith's culture will ensure Tevita Pangai Junior (l) is a good fit for them.
Ivan Cleary is hoping Penrith's culture will ensure Tevita Pangai Junior (l) is a good fit for them.

Ivan Cleary believes Penrith's culture will get the best out of controversial ex-Brisbane prop Tevita Pangai Junior at the back end of the NRL season.

The 25-year-old is set to join the Panthers for their clash with Sydney Roosters in round 21 on a short-term deal before he joins Canterbury next season.

The move has been seen as a risk for the premiership hopefuls by some, but Cleary is of the belief that culture magnifies talent and he's banking on it to get consistency out of the young prop.

"That's the challenge that we all have to embrace and I'll have to take responsibility for it personally," Cleary said ahead of Saturday's clash with the Broncos.

"I guess our culture will be tested.

"Culture will multiply talent if it's good.

"I don't think there's any doubt that Tevita Pangai Junior is a very talented young man.

"For a short period of time in our environment I'm confident he can add to us and we might be able to help him a bit as well."

Pangai Junior's signing happened in a whirlwind 24 hours in which the Panthers pulled their interest and then backflipped to land him on a short-term deal.

The Panthers had been on the hunt for another prop since Zane Tetevano was released to Super League suddenly at the end of last year, but Cleary had not found the right fit.

He met with Pangai Junior last month and was impressed with the Broncos star who had already been told he could look elsewhere for a new club.

"It just felt like it might have been a good fit," Cleary said.

"As the weeks progressed it didn't feel like it was going to work out.

"We made the decision 24 hours before we did it.

"We'd actually pulled out before that, so it was a pretty crazy little operation there but at this time of the year, for us, we had a hole to fill and I think he's the kind of guy who can really add to our team."

The timing is perfect for the Panthers.

Prop James Fisher Harris will return to Sydney following Saturday's game for the birth of his child, with the club and the NRL still working out his quarantine requirements upon re-entry into Queensland.

Cleary said best case scenario he will miss three games, but it could be up to six.

"This guy's a train-a-holic at the best of times and he's already feeling quite low about leaving the team," Cleary said.

"We're hoping we can get a favourable quarantine arrangement so he can train through that period and then be able to fit straight in when he comes back, which will probably be about three games.

"If he's got to do a hard quarantine it's probably going to be more like five or six, which would be disastrous."

Australian Associated Press