Concerns for Nathan Cleary's ongoing shoulder problem have been dismissed by Penrith with teammate Liam Martin claiming many don't realise just how tough the NRL playmaker is.
In the countdown to Saturday's NRL preliminary final against Melbourne, the halfback's father - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary - has tried to play down the injury, saying it had not affected his son's play.
But Cleary showed some worrying signs in Penrith's tough semi-final win over Parramatta, clutching at his shoulder after trying to make a tackle in the second half.
Premiers Melbourne are masters of exploiting any team's weaknesses and Martin admitted he wouldn't be surprised if the Storm targeted Cleary in their Suncorp Stadium clash.
After seeing how Melbourne shut down X-factor Tom Trbojevic in their 40-12 qualifying final rout of Manly, Martin said the Panthers forwards would do their best to ensure they didn't do the same against their key man.
"He's a pretty tough guy. We (Panthers pack) will do our best for him ...(but) I think he can handle whatever they can throw at him," Martin said.
"He always jokes that he is tougher than me. It's a quality that doesn't get noticed much in him.
"I am sure it is not the most comfortable thing having that shoulder niggle, but he hasn't mentioned it at all at training or playing or anything - he is hiding it pretty well."
Cleary - who faces off-season surgery - may have appeared rattled against the Eels but Penrith hard-man Tevita Pangai Junior said they were more than confident the classy half's shoulder would hold together for another two games.
"I think Nathan is a big man, probably one of the better halves who can defend," he said.
"I remember he hit me in a tackle earlier this season when I played him and I was with the Broncos - I think he can hold his own."
Australian Associated Press