Nathan Cleary gets backing from Brad Fittler after World Cup criticism

NSW coach Brad Fittler (pictured left) during a media conference and (pictured right) Nathan Cleary during a game.
NSW coach Brad Fittler (pictured left) has backed Nathan Cleary (pictured right) despite the unwarranted criticism he has received after the World Cup. (Getty Images)

NSW coach Brad Fittler has hit out at Nathan Cleary's unwarranted criticism after he led the Kangaroos to a third-straight World Cup title. Cleary continued to cop criticism throughout Australia's successful World Cup campaign in the UK only weeks after winning the NRL premiership with Penrith.

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The 25-year-old had three try assists, four line break assists, four tackle breaks, a 40/20 and 119 running metres as Australia toppled Samoa 30-10. But the star halfback still managed to cop some brutal criticism on social media in the aftermath.

Some of the same detractors who called for Cleary's head after NSW's series loss to Queensland in State of Origin earlier this year believed he didn't do enough after winning the halfback role for Australia. However, Fittler said he found criticism of Nathan Cleary's output strange, after the NSW halfback claimed the Kangaroos No.7 jersey in Australia's World Cup win.

"He cops it a lot. For one of the better players in our game, he seems to get a lot of criticism, and I'm not sure why," Fittler said. "He's not a Johnathan Thurston or an Andrew Johns, he's a Nathan Cleary.

"Sometimes he doesn't stand out, but I've never seen a game where he doesn't give 100 per cent or he's not nailing the details that people don't see."

Brad Fittler address Josh Addo-Carr issue

Another player Fittler was complimentary of was former NSW winger Josh Addo-Carr.

The winger enjoyed a brilliant World Cup for Australia, which only heaped pressure on Fittler after the coach opted to drop him for the State of Origin series.

NSW lost 2-1, even with Brian To'o and Daniel Tupou performing well on the wing.

In his return to representative football, Addo-Carr scored a record-equalling 12 tries in five games for the Kangaroos, regularly breaking the game open with his speed.

Asked if Addo-Carr had proved NSW wrong, Fittler was complimentary about the 27-year-old's return.

"He was fantastic (at the World Cup)," Fittler said while overseeing an NSWRL Talented Aboriginal Athletes Program on Friday.

"What he did is he proved that he's the best person for that job. He was in the middle of the field and didn't let many in.

Josh Addo-Carr (pictured) celebrates after the Rugby League World Cup Final.
NSW coach Brad Fittler praised Josh Addo-Carr (pictured) after he scored a record-equalling 12 tries in five games for the Kangaroos. (Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images)

"One thing that was really strong was his defence and he was carrying the ball out of trouble.

"He was one of the best players in the Australian team."

Origin I in Adelaide remains six-and-a-half months away, but Fittler suggested World Cup form in the representative arena would be considered next year.

Also of importance is the fact Fittler expects the Bulldogs to be performing better in 2023, after making clear this year he wanted players from winning teams.

"He was playing better in November than he was in March," Fittler said of Addo-Carr.

"If he takes that into the off-season and then playing for Canterbury ... they've got a new couple of players and all of a sudden they could be winning games.

"It always helps when you're winning games, and he's going back to a club that in my eyes will win more games because it looks like they're going to be stronger.

"Everyone wants to see Josh play in the rep arena where you can see that he takes the game to another level."

with AAP

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