Nathan Cleary detail comes to light after Jarome Luai earns NSW State of Origin recall

Luai will turn to his injured teammate for advice ahead of Game I.

Blues coach Michael Maguire has made the decision to recall Jarome Luai to the NSW fold in place of his injured teammate Nathan Cleary. The Panthers five-eighth will play at halfback for the Blues and is one of the most pivotal players in Maguire's team as the NSW coach gambles on a relatively untested spine for Game I.

Maguire on Sunday night handed out six debuts for the June 5 series-opener in Sydney, with the most notable being Dylan Edwards at fullback in place of James Tedesco. Only six Blues from game three last year avoided the axe, with a combination of injuries and poor form handing Maguire an impossible selection assignment.

Pictured Nathan Cleary left and with Jarome Luai right
Jarome Luai says Nathan Cleary will help him prepare to be the Blues No.7. Image: Getty

It is in the spine where the Blues' inexperience is most telling. Luai has played seven Origins for NSW and was part of the 2021 series victory at five-eighth but he was dropped after game two last year - after a brain snap saw him sent off for head-butting Queensland's Reece Walsh. He will partner Nicho Hynes in the halves for Game I.

The Sharks star has been in top form in 2023 and 2024 but he had a shocker off the bench in his Origin debut last year. He was subsequently dumped by then-coach Brad Fittler, which took a huge toll on his confidence.

While at fullback Edwards will make his State of Origin debut and hooker Reece Robson has only one Origin start and one appearance off the bench. And with more of a leadership role falling on Luai in this year's Origin series, Maguire will hope he can step up in the absence of his teammate Cleary.

Luai has shown he can take control of a side, doing exactly that for Penrith in recent weeks in the absence of their No.7. While he will need to step up again in Origin, Luai says he will be working hard alongside Cleary on the training ground to ensure he is up for the challenge.

"I want to make amends for (last year)," Luai said. "You want to be leaving the jersey in a better position than you found it. That's what I want to do now."

"Having the best player in the NRL (to ask for advice) definitely helps. I ask him to watch my every move and give me tips on what he looks for ... and when to do stuff. We're different players, and we're good at different things - I don't want to try to be someone I'm not - but it's more mental things, and team management in that role, which is something I can get better at."


Luai will be partnered in the halves by Hynes, whose calf remains a point of interest for NSW after the Sharks halfback underwent scans on Sunday after leaving the field in the 32nd minute of the Sharks' loss to Penrith on Saturday night. There are fears he will have a limited training load before game one, with Andrew Johns on Sunday calling for Luke Keary to be picked instead.

Keary remains in Maguire's squad as a reserve, with he or 18th man Matt Burton available if Hynes does not recover. However, Hynes believes he will be all good to go and says his recall feels like he is making his debut all over again.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 08: Nicho Hynes of the Blues watches on from the sideline during game one of the 2022 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 08, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Nicho Hynes had an Origin debut to forget last year.

"Madge (Maguire) called me to congratulate me and it sure was a nice phone call to receive," Hynes told The Daily Telegraph. "By picking me he’s believing in me and showing me confidence, that’s what I love in a coach.

"I’m so proud. It’s something that I’ve been working on for a very long time. Every kid dreams of playing Origin and obviously I got to experience it last year, but hopefully, I can experience it in a much better way this time."

with AAP