Cleary keen to improve Origin credentials

Pamela Whaley
·2-min read

Nathan Cleary hasn't dominated for NSW as he'd have liked with no other halfback playing their first six State of Origin games without a try assist.

This stat, along with no line-breaks or line-break assists in his burgeoning Blues career, has raised questions about his ability to deliver in big games.

NSW have chopped and changed halfbacks for a lot less throughout the past decade but coach Brad Fittler has kept the faith in the young Penrith star believing he needs time to develop.

And Cleary, for one, is grateful.

"I probably haven't played the way I want to so far in Origin," he said on Monday.

"It just comes down to the process of getting better each day at training and taking ownership.

"Being that dominant voice."

Origin legends Ricky Stuart, Allan Langer, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk all played four Origin matches at halfback before landing a try assist.

But Cleary's streak is the longest in the history of interstate rivalry, despite winning the past two series with the Blues.

The 22-year-old has, however, been afforded the vice captaincy for Wednesday night's must-win game at ANZ Stadium.

In the past, Cleary has admitted to paying attention to the critics and believing the worst in himself but his mental toughness has grown over the past few years.

"It's just about realising you can't change what's happened," he said.

"Just trying to be better again when you come into training.

"I'm obviously surrounded by a great bunch of players here and coaches.

"If I thought too much on the outside noise I don't think I'd get much better... I just want to improve."

With a new halves partner in Cody Walker for Game II, Cleary will again be charged with running the show.

He was disappointed with his game management in the loss in Adelaide, but hooker Damien Cook backed Cleary to rebound and help the Blues level the series in Sydney.

"For a young kid he's got a level head on him and I know people talk about there might be a bit too much pressure on him but I don't think that worries him too much," Cook said.

"He's confident in his game and what he does.

"We've got to make sure we do the right thing by our halfback and get through our sets for him and getting him on the front foot which will allow him to have a good kicking game.

"I know for some reason halves get a bit of attention and a bit of criticism after a loss but it was a team performance and we've got to do the right thing by him."

Should NSW level the series against Queensland on Wednesday night they will head to Brisbane with hopes of sealing their third-straight series win.