Scans are expected to confirm the severity of the knee injury, but Cleary said after the match: «It looks like he’s damaged his medial, but I don’t think it’s too bad.
«He’s had a great pre-season, but it won’t be too bad. He’ll play a big part in our season. Unfortunately, someone gets injured in these games. Hopefully, it’s not too bad.»
Kikau enjoyed a breakout season last year, especially with his left-edge combination with fellow Fijian Waqa Blake.
Penrith have James Fisher-Harris to return to the forward pack, but they lost gun Kiwi backrower Corey Harawira-Naera to Canterbury during the summer and Tyrone Peachey, another second-row option, linked with the Gold Coast.
Trial form is never a perfect guide for how a team will perform in three weeks, especially when Wayne Bennett trotted out the bulk of his big guns, including Sam Burgess, Cameron Murray and Damien Cook, for just 20 minutes in the second quarter.
Cleary expects Dean Whare, James Fisher-Harris and Jimmy Tamou to return for next Saturday’s trial against Parramatta, while Nathan was also a chance.
The man of the moment, Sutton, launched a midfield bomb, which eventually led to Jacob Gagan’s first try, then teamed up with Cody Walker down the left to send Gagan over again.
The only player to post 300 games for the historic club, and who has since picked up the unflattering nickname »Fossil», was flattered by the match in his honour, even though the lousy weather would have severely impacted on what he stood to earn from the one-off event.
»It wasn’t like the ‘300 week’ where I was tearing up, but being my first game back, I just wanted to play some football,» Sutton said.
«The fans turn up rain, hail or shine – they are the best in the league.
«We didn’t start the best today, but that second 20 minutes we showed the sort of footy we can play, and it should get everyone excited.»
Burgess was solid in his cameo, smashing Liam Martin with his first tackle. Souths halfback Connor Tracey was ruled out before the game because of a shoulder injury, and his replacement, teenager Dean Hawkins, was solid before he came from the field late with a suspected knee injury.
Liam Knight, who has impressed everyone at Redfern during the pre-season and was pushing hard for a front-row spot, especially with George Burgess suspended for the opening three rounds, was a late scratching with a foot injury.
For the visitors, Dylan Edwards was handy at the back for the Panthers, Reagan Campbell-Gillard looked fit and winger Josh Mansour looked to have developed yet another set of abs during the pre-season. Maloney was booed by the Souths faithful when he came from the field on the half hour, but did not seem to mind.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.