Second Row 1983-1989
A powerhouse centre/second row forward from Warialda. 'Crusher' Cleal first came to prominence playing on the wing for Northern Division against Great Britain in 1979. Noel Cleal had captain-coached Wondai to a premiership in Qld, represented Wide Bay and then Country NSW while playing for Scone. Cleal came to Sydney to play for the Roosters from Sawtell in 1980, playing centre in the grand final loss to the Bulldogs.
He followed coach Bob Fulton to Manly in1983 after Fulton had moved him to the second row. His representative career took off while playing with Manly in the mid-1980s. Cleal represented NSW in 1984 and was runner-up in that year's Rothmans Medal competition. He made his Test debut against NZ the following year and played in three Tests against Papua New Guinea and Great Britain on the 1986 Kangaroo tour before breaking his arm and being forced to return home.
While sometimes critised for his defence, Crusher was given latitude by his coaches to use his strength and size in attack. He played in Manly's premiership win in 1987 before seeing out the remainder of his career with English club Hull. Cleal was Hull's replacement coach in 1991 but despite winning the premiership trophy, was sacked when the dub faltered the following year.
Returning to Australia.
Cleal was snapped up by Parramatta as a junior
development and recruitment officer with coach Brian
Smith publicly acknowledging Cleal's role in helping to
mould the team that won the 2001 minor premiership. He
returned 'home' to Manly in 2004 to head up the Sea
Eagles recruitment campaign. Why did he return? In Crusher's own words : 'I have a
tremendous feel for the club; the tattoo of a giant sea
eagle on my backside is evidence of that. I am honored to
be back, purely because I consider here home.'
1989 - 90 Hull RL
(England) 31 games 15 tries 1 goal
1981 88 New
South Wales 11 games 5 tries
87 Grand Finalist
1980, 81, 82, 83, 84, 86, 87,88 Semi Finalists
1996 Fiji Vs
With sons Gareth and Kane after 1987 Grand Final win.