After copping brickbats on an almost daily basis over the last six months, Nathan Cleary says he's learned some harsh realities of the NRL.
The next few days shape as a nervous wait for the Cleary household as he gets set to learn whether he will retain his NSW Origin jumper when Brad Fittler reveals his side on Sunday evening.
It's been reported that Fittler is leaning towards persevering with the 21-year-old and the Penrith No.7 did his chances no harm when he came up with the winning try in Thursday's win over Parramatta.
Post-match his father and coach Ivan said Nathan had been through the wringer over the last six months, in part due to the scrutiny which came with Ivan's decision to defect from the Wests Tigers to the Panthers.
Critics have also lined Nathan Cleary up as the Panthers slumped to 2-8 and to the bottom of the ladder before getting back on track against the Eels.
"I always knew there were going to be tough times but I never thought we'd start the season like we did," Nathan Cleary said.
"It's as tough as it gets. It's been constant bagging coming from everywhere.
"You've got to live with it, it's what the life of a footballer is all about."
While the Panthers have been the competition's big underachievers, Ivan Cleary has consistently maintained his son isn't the side's problem.
Statistics show that while he's down in many of the major attacking statistics this year, compared with his breakout 2018 campaign, it isn't by much.
He is coming up with 0.36 try assists per game - compared with 0.6 last year.
He's also down on linebreaks (0.3 to 0.27) and tackle busts (2.4 to 1.7) but he's improved in linebreak assists (0.7 to 0.8).
"It's tough when people are talking about you every week and constant criticism," Nathan Cleary said.
"But we've stuck together as a family and stuck together as a team.
"It has been tough at times and I probably have taken it to heart too much.
"I've got a lot of people who support me really closely and I'm really lucky."
Earlier this month Nathan admitted he wasn't in good enough form to be retained for Origin.
Asked about his chances, he said: "I don't know. If I get picked I'll be absolutely stoked.
"I can't put all my eggs in the one basket. I haven't been in the best form over the start of the season and that's just fact."
© AAP 2019