Griffin was sacked by Penrith earlier this year, and yesterday Cleary signed a five-year extension with the club.

"It made my decision easier as I had more clarity," the halfback admitted to "I never really had a problem with Hook (Griffin) and I'll be forever grateful that he gave me the chance to play first grade.

"It was a massive gamble at the time. I was 18 and he had to make some tough decisions to give me my debut.

"I will always cherish that and be really grateful for that. But things weren't going to plan this year and there was often a lot of confusion.

"I'm not trying to say anything bad about Hook here, but once it all got cleared up, everyone was on the same page and everyone was a lot happier.

"Those last six weeks, even though we weren't playing great footy, training was going really well. Everyone was in the same direction and wanted to end up at the same destination."

Cleary says his decision to stay with the Panthers is not connected at all with where his father Ivan will be coaching in the future.

"It's got nothing to do with my old man," he said. "I was happy to make the decision by myself. What happens in the future with dad is out of my control.

"I don't think I ever thought I was going to leave even with what was going on. I always thought I would stay and it would all work itself out eventually and yeah, it did.

"This is a real happy place to be in at the moment."