Ivan Cleary.
Ivan Cleary. Greg Bowker - NZ Herald

Who's the 'boofhead' now?

ANOTHER Australian is bandying the word "boofhead" about - but this time the league hardman reckons he's the wally for ever suggesting Ivan Cleary's Warriors should have been turfed out of the NRL.

Former Penrith enforcer Mark Geyer told the Herald yesterday he was happy Cleary would be coaching the Panthers from next year.

He is one of several league identities praising the quiet Aussie for getting the Warriors to the grand final - the second in the club's history.

"Back in 07 some boofhead wrote that [league bosses] should kick the Warriors out of the comp for being so woeful. And that boofhead was me." Geyer said.

He is now a fan and reckons Cleary has it in him to be the next super coach in the mould of Phil Gould or Wayne Bennett.

Geyer said his opinion of the coach who has been at the club since 2005 changed after the way he handled the drowning of backrower Sonny Fai in 2009.

"That was heartbreaking. I think from that day on I've looked at him in a different way and I've admired the way he's got the best out of his troops as well as being the brother everyone needs, not just a coach.

"He looks like a mentor."

Cleary's ability to blood youngsters such as Shaun Johnson slowly was impressive, and now the team was reaping the rewards, Geyer said.

And the former test player says he also admires Cleary's self-contained persona. The coach's stoicism in the face of victory - he allowed himself only a small smile in the coach's box when the Warriors won their preliminary final - was vintage Cleary.

That prompted an Australian commentator to joke this week that Cleary promised to shift in his chair if the Warriors won against the Manly Sea Eagles on Sunday.

"Who would have thunk it? That this mild mannered, if you like, accountant [type] who has rocked up to coach all but the national team is quite the recluse?

"He's got the great knack of knowing how to turn the emotion button off. That's very hard in a game like rugby league. When he played he was effective without being noticed and I think that's the way he coaches."

Former Kiwi and Canberra Raider Dean Lonergan said that come Sunday night Cleary could become New Zealand's new favourite Australian.

"I think he's done an amazing job for the Warriors and league in general in this country. It's a shame to see him go."

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