AAP Rugby

Cleary hints at key Panthers role for May

By AAP Newswire

Tyrone May has to wait a month until he's free to make his official NRL return for Penrith but there could be a perfect role awaiting him when he does.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary hinted as much after May played his first rugby league game at any level in almost 18 months in Saturday's trial win over Wests Tigers.

Substituted into the halves midway through the first half, May scored a try and set up another in a solid comeback.

"He did okay. He was talking really well. Physically, I thought he looked okay too," Cleary said of the performance.

"He's had plenty of disruptions throughout this pre-season for various reasons. I'm sure he'll feel a lot better getting that one out of the way."

May was stood down all of last season under the game's no-fault policy as he faced sex tape charges.

He narrowly avoided jail and was sentenced by the courts to 300 hours of community service before being handed an additional four-game suspension by the NRL.

However the league has given him the green light to play in Penrith's pre-season matches, as well as reserve grade, during his ban.

Cleary revealed how he sat down with May before the match to ensure the Samoan international wasn't placing too much pressure on himself to perform.

"He was pretty nervous this week. He was even saying (how) it was the first time he'd been in the sheds for 12 months," Cleary said.

"So just that whole environment, he's missed.

"I had a chat to him yesterday about lowering his expectations and not feeling like he had to come out and play the best he can."

Cleary went on to suggest the 23-year-old, who comes off-contract at the end of the year, shapes as the ideal utility to have on his bench this season.

"He's a really good No.14 because he can play so many positions," he said.

"He actually played halfback tonight, a bit of five-eighth, he could play hooker ... plays anywhere, really. In fairness, he'll need that time playing Canterbury Cup.

"It's good to have him back in the squad for sure."

Cleary is certain to field his first-choice 17 in next week's trial against Parramatta.

That includes Caleb Aekins who missed the Tigers trial for the birth of his first child but is favoured to fill in for injured fullback Dylan Edwards.

Aekins is the only other specialist fullback on their roster.

"He was obviously going to play but (had) something bigger on. He's the back-up fullback and that's the way I'm looking at it," Cleary said.