Fans of Nathan Cleary and Mary Fowler are no doubt wondering how they’ll keep their romance going when she returns to England to play for Manchester City this week – but the NRL star may have already answered their questions in a very revealing statement .
The sports power couple made their relationship public on Wednesday in a series of stunning photos taken exclusively by Daily Mail Australia.
These pictures came after speculation that they were a couple arose in August when they were seen walking along Sydney’s Nepean River and enjoying an ice cream together.
That same month, Cleary referenced the Matildas when asked about a major career change that would pave the way for him to join them in the UK as their career goes from strength to strength.
Photos taken exclusively for Daily Mail Australia showed Cleary and Fowler going public with their romance in some tender moments at a Perth park on Wednesday
Now her fans will be wondering how the couple will maintain their relationship if Fowler leaves her boyfriend 11,000 miles away to play football in England – but Cleary may have already answered that question
Rugby Australia was pushing to get some of the NRL’s biggest stars at the time to make the move after securing the signing of Roosters sensation Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii – and Cleary gave a very telling answer when asked if he himself would want to make a change.
One of the biggest lures rugby union has for NRL players is the chance to take part in the code’s World Cup and play in front of a truly global audience – a fact not lost on the Penrith halfback.
“The Matildas, what they did – you can’t do that in rugby league,” Cleary said.
“I think that’s the exciting part of the union, it’s happening on this global stage.”
“If you did it for Australia it would be such a big deal because Australia has kind of neglected the union for a while and it wasn’t a big deal.”
“I think that part of it is an exciting prospect,” he told the sports news.
While the governing body wants Cleary to play for an Australian Super Rugby team if he leaves, he would attract strong interest from teams in the UK if he became available.
Fowler plays for English giants Manchester City (pictured) – and returning to Australia to play for a local team would be a major step backwards for her
On the other hand, Cleary (pictured in the Panthers’ 2023 grand final win) could make more money and further his career by switching to rugby union and joining it in the UK
While most NRL players who have code-switched play in defence, Cleary is a generational talent at halfback who could make it in Britain’s top union competition, the Gallagher Premiership.
Joining an English club would not only bring him closer to Fowler, but would also be financially lucrative.
The competition’s highest-paid player, Charles Piutau of the Bristol Bears, earns $1.9 million per season
Even a relative newcomer to the game, former NRL star Semi Radradra, takes home just over $1 million a year with the Bristol Bears.
Former South Sydney star Sam Burgess made headlines in both countries when he switched codes and played for Bath in England’s top flight to play for his home country in the 2015 World Cup.
Rugby Australia has already convinced Roosters NRL star Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii to switch codes and would do everything it could to get Cleary into the Wallabies lineup
Former NRL star Sam Burgess moved to England’s premier rugby union competition in 2014 after leading Souths to a grand final victory – and now that Cleary has won three premierships in a row and has talked about playing union, he could do the same
The Wallabies’ halves have been a weak point for the team for some time and this was also the case at the recent World Cup in France where the team suffered their worst ever result in the tournament as they were eliminated in the group stages.
Rugby Australia would be desperate to have a player with Cleary’s skills in the scrum or at half-time with the country hosting the World Cup in 2027 – with the event being used as a big incentive to convince NRL stars like Suaalii to take the to make a change.
The Panthers’ linchpin is tied to the club until the end of 2027, but contracts in the NRL are proven to be easy to break if the player is willing to make financial sacrifices.
Additionally, the 25-year-old has conquered every mountain the NRL has to offer, winning three consecutive premierships and playing for NSW and Australia.
Cleary and Fowler’s high-profile long-distance relationship brings back memories of rugby league star Solomon Haumono’s turbulent relationship with British model Gabrielle Richens in the 1990s, which saw the league player take drastic measures to keep the romance alive.
The situation brings back memories of the headline-grabbing romance between Solomon Haumono and British model Gabrielle Richens (pictured together) in the 1990s
Richens rose to fame in Australia after playing a stripper in a controversial Virgin commercial, which earned her the nickname “The Pleasure Machine.”
Haumono made headlines around the world when he left rugby league to be with her on the other side of the world.
In 1998, Haumono – who was then a Canterbury Bulldogs contract player – flew from Australia to the UK to be with her without telling his family or club, and the next year landed back in Sydney, where he played for Balmain.
Cleary wouldn’t pack up and leave in the same way – but he would be much more capable of building a life for himself in England while making his mark as a cross-code great.