Kent: Liar, liar Panthers on fire
Nathan Cleary was not at home for the entire day that he recorded his TikTok video.
That was the lie that cost Cleary $30,000 and two games after the NRL Integrity Unit finally smashed the glass, in case of emergency, to take a stand for the game and the responsibilities of those who play it.
Almost everything Cleary initially said was untrue.
That he was home practising self-isolation.
That the girls were down the road, drinking in the street and waiting for an Uber and, in a gentlemanly act, he told them they could wait at his place.
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That the girls were in his company for only 10 minutes.
And, most of all, that he had stayed home when, in reality, he left home to pick the girls up.
Given the series of lies to the Integrity Unit the NRL believes it had no choice but to come down hard and suspend him for two games, with many considering him lucky he was not outed even longer.
"Firstly, the activities were not in line with public protocols," an NRL source said. "But, secondly, he conspired to concoct a story about what he was doing."
The NRL is angry Cleary was caught lying to the Integrity Unit not once, but twice.
When photos of girls at his place first surfaced on social media, Cleary claimed they had stopped in to his home to wait for the Uber for no longer than 10 minutes.
The claim was made on Channel 9 news which, given its broad audience, added to his punishment.
Then the TikTok dancing video emerged and Cleary had to concede they were at his place a little longer than he first suggested.
Further investigation has now revealed that Cleary left his home to pick up the girls, breaking the self-isolation protocols.
The full story finally was revealed when the Integrity Unit interviewed Cleary again, as well as housemate Tyrone May, and now explains the cryptic release the NRL issued Monday night when it revised its penalty, saying Cleary was "untruthful in material matters".
May, who initially claimed he retreated to his bedroom to obey social distancing rules, was fined $15,000 and also suspended two games. He won't be able to play until round seven with his two game ban coming on top of the four game suspension he is halfway through serving for a previous off-field incident.
He later joined the party, it was discovered.
It is a perfect example of the problem inherent in the game, one difficult to solve.
Good players are so prized their mistakes are glossed over, even covered up. It happens often.
But it creates a false sense of reality and, in some cases, entitlement. As if the rest of society's rules don't apply.
On the flip side, players often pay a far steeper penalty once they are exposed, which reinforces the clubs' efforts to protect them.
What often fails to be discussed are the club's failures to prepare players for adult responsibilities.
This is where the NRL was compelled to act.
"The whole competition is on the line," said the NRL source. "It is time to make adult decisions."
Cleary had clearly panicked.
A day after Josh Addo-Carr and Latrell Mitchell were skewered for breaking isolation rules, angering NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and making some question the merits of the NRL return on May 28, Cleary was caught on social media and panicked to the extent he invented a whole narrative to cover his mistake.
And, inevitably, the small lie snowballed into a big lie he could not escape.
Eventually, the cover-up became bigger than the initial act.
Originally published as Kent: Liar, liar Panthers on fire