'Tends to struggle': Cameron Smith's plan for Blues linchpin

·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
Cameron Smith (pictured left) looking back at Nathan Cleary (pictured right).
Cameron Smith (pictured left) has given his opinion on how to stop Nathan Cleary (pictured right) in State of Origin. (Getty Images)

Queensland legend Cameron Smith has offered his advice to the Maroons on how to nullify Nathan Cleary's game ahead of the first clash of State of Origin.

The halfback battle between Daly Cherry-Evans and Cleary looms as the biggest of the Origin series, with the pair among the leading players in the game.

'THEY DON'T CARE': Phil Gould's fury over 'arrogant' Queensland move

HUGE: Queensland rocked by massive blow before State of Origin opener

Cleary has no doubt taken his game to another level as he has steered the Penrith Panthers to an impressive lead on the NRL ladder.

However, the young halfback has failed to make his mark in State of Origin.

But after yet another stellar club season, so far, many are expecting Cleary to stand up and make this series count.

This has prompted NRL legend Smith to offer his advice on how to shut down the in-form star.

Smith has played against Cleary on numerous occasions, including in last year's NRL Final.

The future 'Immortal' said pressure from a big forward has seen Cleary struggle in the past.

“They took time and space away from him,” Smith said on SEN Radio.

Nathan Cleary looks on during a Blues State of Origin training session at Coogee Oval on June 01, 2021 in Sydney, Australia.
Nathan Cleary looks on during a Blues State of Origin training session at Coogee Oval on June 01, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

“It seems as though that is when he tends to struggle. He doesn’t have that and that’s been mentioned in the build-up to this game.

“He doesn’t have that week to week when he is playing for Penrith because they are such a good football side and so well drilled and their game plan and system is built around him.

“He plays with an extra few seconds [more] than any player in the competition when he has the ball in his hands and he can pick and choose what he wants to do - run, kick, pass. This series will be a huge test for him and an opportunity to silence a few critics.”

State of Origin halfback battle

The battle of the halfbacks could also determine who gets the call-up for Mal Meninga's Kangaroos side.

Cherry-Evans has made his own statement, outclassing Cleary in last year's Origin and leading Queensland to a shock series win.

But Meninga said Origin is often the biggest telling point for selection.

"Nathan has been really dominant and you see how important he is to the Penrith side ... He has gone to another level this year," Meninga said.

"But DCE's form has been immaculate since Tommy came back. It's interesting, DCE is the incumbent and vice-captain.

"Origin will become the yardstick for selection for those two."

with AAP

Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting