His decision to then withhold information from the NRL integrity unit about appearing in a TikTok video dancing with the friends, as well as May’s involvement, led to the governing body coming down hard.
Most expected Cleary to receive an increased fine but the NRL said his actions were ”untruthful”.
Cleary told the Panthers website: “I’m obviously embarrassed with myself and I’m not happy with what I’ve done.
“I just to want to apologise for my actions. My actions were irresponsible, selfish and pretty stupid to be honest. I brought a lot of negative attention to not only myself but my family, the club, the game as well, and that’s what has hurt me the most.
“To move on from here I need to realise I can’t change what has already happened, even though I wish I could. The reality is I can’t. The one thing I can control are my actions moving forward.”
Cleary then referenced 19th century US theologian Tryon Edwards when he said: “Someone sent me a quote the other day that said, ‘good actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past’.
“And that’s what I’ll be taking on board. It’s a massive learning curve for me. I’ve learnt a lot about myself and I never want to go through this again.
“I think this could be the moment I can kick on, especially as a leader and as a person and become better. That’s the positive I’m taking out of this, if there is any.
“I really want to say sorry, my actions weren’t good enough. My biggest driving factor is I really want to grow as a person and as a leader, which has come into question … this gives me an opportunity to try and prove some people wrong as well.”
Cleary’s suspension means the Panthers, who won their opening two games before the COVID-19 shutdown, will field inexperienced halves Matt Burton and Jarome Luai.
Ivan passed on the chance to be interviewed by the Herald and said he was happy to have his say via the in-house video.
The Panthers lodged a formal complaint with the NRL against a TV network who allegedly hounded Cleary at his home on four separate occasions, including Tuesday morning.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.