Nathan Cleary has sent a message to Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga after a masterful display in Australia's 84-0 thrashing of Scotland at the Rugby League World Cup on Friday.
The Penrith Panthers star emphasised his credentials to become Meninga's first-choice halfback after scoring 28 points on debut in Coventry.
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Cleary was one of six debutants named by Meninga for Friday's match, and he wasted little time making an impact as the Kangaroos put Scotland to the sword.
Watched by his father Ivan, the Penrith playmaker kicked 12 goals from 15 attempts, had three try assists and scored a try of his own.
He fell just short of Andrew Johns' Kangaroos record of points for a debutant (30 v South Africa, 1995) as Scotland were torn to pieces from the first minute to the last in front of a rain-soaked crowd of 10,276 at Coventry Building Society Arena.
Still, his performance was not enough to be named man of the match, with winger Josh Addo-Carr receiving the award for a four-try haul in a victory which was Australia's second-biggest ever at a World Cup.
Nevertheless, Cleary still staked his claim to be the first-choice halfback going forward, with Daly Cherry-Evans preferred by Meninga in Australia's first-up victory over Fiji.
Cleary's dominant display - admittedly against a Scotland side with just a handful of full-time professionals - will give Meninga something to consider ahead of next week's final group stage game with Italy.
Cherry-Evans and Cleary are likely to line up in the halves together in a dead rubber against the Italians after Australia inflicted a record defeat on the Scots.
Scotland are a long way from the side that clinched a draw with New Zealand in the 2016 Four Nations and the Bravehearts needed to be perfect to have any chance of troubling the Kangaroos.
But they struggled so badly they had just one play-the-ball in Australia's 20-metre zone across the 80 minutes.
Fans react to 'ridiculous' Nathan Cleary display
They made an error off the opening kick-off and Australia hit their straps immediately with Cleary sending Addo-Carr and Jack Wighton over inside the opening 10 minutes.
Campbell Graham, who scored a hat-trick against a Bravehearts side he nearly played for at this World Cup, chimed in on the other flank with Angus Crichton and Cleary crossing to give the Kangaroos a 40-0 lead at the half-time break.
Captain James Tedesco jinked his way over just 50 seconds into the second half and when Ben Hunt crossed in the 45th minute, Meninga gave his skipper an early mark for Valentine Holmes.
Ben Hunt, Isaah Yeo and Matt Burton also contributed to Scotland's misery after Kane Linnett was sin-binned for a professional foul.
In the final minute a Holmes error gave Scotland a gilt-edged chance to have a crack at the Australian line but they failed to even threaten.
Nathan Cleary is unparalleled. The doubters will say “it’s Scotland”.
My opinion - You can only play what’s in front of you. #RLWC
— Martin Lang (@Martin_Lang11) October 21, 2022
Nathan Cleary is absolutely ridiculous
— Matt (@MaffHKR) October 21, 2022
Unlike a former Australian coach The Roos should be picked on form not Origin Nathan Cleary & Campbell Graham are a must in the team.
— Terry Zarsoff (@Terryzarsoff) October 21, 2022
we just saw nathan cleary shovel the first soil on DCE’s coffin,cldnt care less it was against euan aitken & kane linen, nathan’s proven to have less errors & divisive factional politics in his game so sorry DCE its time to relinquish that sacred number 2 halfback jersey champeon
— Facebook NRL fan (@FacebookNrl) October 21, 2022
Nathan Cleary Not even come out of second gear playing in a dinner jacket 🤵🏼 🐐 🇦🇺
— Lee Stephenson (@leestevo82) October 21, 2022
Talk of an incumbent was just silly.
Mal has to say there is competition for the halfback position.
There isn't, though.
Nathan Cleary will be the halfback in the games that matter most.
— Jason Oliver (@JasonNRL) October 21, 2022
Gotta feel sorry for Nathan Cleary. Arguably the best player in the world, making his international debut wearing number 14, against Scotland, in front of 1500 people, in Coventry ! #RLWC2021
— paul dunkley (@tunksy10) October 21, 2022
Nathan Cleary is so much better then Cherry Evans he should be a lock for this Australian side, his hands and game management is superb, and his kick game is probably the best in the world top top player #RLWC2021
— Dennis Baldwin (@DennyBaldwin) October 21, 2022
— Dan Kelly (@Dankellysport) October 21, 2022
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