Near misses to fuel NSW's Cleary in 2021

Ed Jackson
·2-min read

Nathan Cleary has vowed to use the disappointment of NRL grand final and State of Origin defeats to spur him to new heights in 2021.

The NSW halfback's sensational 2020 included guiding Penrith to a record-breaking 17 NRL victories and steering his state to a game two Origin win with a dominant kicking display.

But his year has also been marred by the Panthers' grand final defeat to Melbourne and then Wednesday's heartbreaking 20-14 Origin decider loss to Queensland at Suncorp Stadium.

The 23-year-old admits it leaves him heading in to the off-season with mixed emotions.

"2020 as a whole has just been a rollercoaster really," Cleary said.

"Ride the lows and the highs. That's rugby league.

"Unfortunately, lost some pretty big games in the last month or so but I think I'll use that as fuel for next year.

"Enjoying the journey I'm on, very grateful for position I'm in. Looking forward to getting better, trying to improve each year and it's no different this year."

Despite coming up short overall, Cleary's 2020 Origin campaign has silenced critics who felt he was a big-game bottler.

Cleary's kicking game was again elite in game three, including arguably the best 40/20 of the year in the first half.

And the Blues' playmaker said the emergence of several young Queensland stars in this year's series has him eagerly anticipating future interstate battles.

"Everyone loves being able to represent their state and I'm no different," Cleary said.

'Very grateful and blessed to pull on a Blues jersey every time.

"I think there'll be some great series coming up over the next few years and hopefully I can be a part of it."