The outgoing Warriors coach couldn't sign off his Warriors career with a first NRL premiership, but expressed pride in the performance of his young side as they went down 24-10 to Manly in last night's Grand Final in Sydney.
The hot favourite Sea Eagles looked home and hosed with an 18-2 lead well into the second half, but the brilliant Warriors five eighth Shaun Johnson sparked a spirits Warriors fightback which produced tries to Manu Vatuvei and Elijah Taylor, only for Jamie Lyon to seal the contest for the Sea Eagles with a four-pointer late in the game.
Cleary refused to blame some dubious refereeing decisions that went against his side in the first half for the defeat, but he felt there should have been a penalty in the build up Daly Cherry-Evans' crucial try on the stroke of halftime.
Clearly said his team couldn't have prepared any better, but he got the feeling it was just Manly's night.
The Warriors' skipper Simon Mannering led the tributes for Cleary, who joins Penrith next season after five years as head coach of the club he also served as a player.
The former Kiwis coach Brian McLennan takes charge of the Warriors next season.