Beware State of Origin on an oval: Andrew Johns
NSW State of Origin champion Andrew Johns has warned of the difficulties that come with playing rugby league on an oval but incumbent halfback Nathan Cleary remains calm ahead Origin series opener in Adelaide.
The NRL's desire to take its showpiece three-match event on the road has meant playing recent State of Origin matches in cities without large-scale rectangular stadiums.
Game I of the 2023 series will be held on Wednesday at Adelaide Oval which, like previous Origin venues the MCG and Optus Stadium, is traditionally used for AFL and cricket fixtures.
The ground will be re-marked to host Origin on a rectangular pitch but Johns, a member of the Blues' coaching staff, believed the subtle change of playing field could stymie the playmakers as they looked to take control of the contest.
"You lose your angles," he said.
"All your life you are playing on rectangle grounds, especially in the big games.
"When you are playing on ovals your angles and your vision can be a little bit skewed."
The Blues' general in attack, Cleary had no chance to get his bearings the last time NSW and Queensland met at Adelaide Oval in 2020.
COVID-19 restrictions meant neither side was able to warm up on the pitch and the Blues ultimately fell as Cameron Munster, who had played in Adelaide three times before, and Daly Cherry-Evans pulled the strings for the Maroons.
Cleary has won four of his five other games at ovals across his first-grade career and was man of the match as NSW thrashed Queensland in Game II at Perth's Optus Stadium last year.
"I've been lucky enough to play on a few fields now that are cricket grounds," he said.
"The SCG, we've played a fair bit there, Optus Stadium over in Perth last year as well.
"To be honest, I don't think it's a massive difference.
"It's something that you try to get your bearings over but it's not something I'm too worried about."
With the NSW squad enjoying a day off on Saturday, Cleary stayed late at Blues training on Friday to work on his long passing and kicking games.
Johns backed the halfback to put in extra work in Adelaide as well.
"Nathan will be right," he said.
"He will be down there on captain's run and sort his angles out, work out the winds, his favourite kicks and where to kick."