Andrew Johns with NSW halves Cody Walker (L) and Nathan Cleary at training. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Andrew Johns with NSW halves Cody Walker (L) and Nathan Cleary at training. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Odd couple plan to leave Maroons at sixes and sevens

ONE is a 29-year-old family man with two kids from Sydney's east. He is a footballing natural who plays on the left edge.

The other is a 21-year-old bachelor from Sydney's west who lives with two mates. He is a footballing tradesman who plays on the right edge.

Halves Cody Walker and Nathan Cleary are the Blues' odd couple who will come together in NSW's relentless push for victory in State of Origin I at Suncorp Stadium.

Walker and Cleary would appear to have little in common but the pair have bonded as roommates, where they have talked tactics over coffee dates.

"We both enjoy footy - that's something we have in common," Cleary said. "We just find conversation from that.

"He's got kids and a girlfriend and I'm single so it's a bit different in that way but we find things to talk about. He's a really good bloke so that helps."

Walker has keenly digested any football nous the young yet knowledgeable Cleary has offered up.

"We have roomed together over the last week. We've been having coffee together over some general chat, asking how he has been going," Walker told The Daily Telegraph.

Walker and Cleary listen closely to the master. Image: Phil Hillyard
Walker and Cleary listen closely to the master. Image: Phil Hillyard

"We pick each other's brain. We have spoken about what sort of shapes we wanted on each edge and how we want to play. It's been great to get that kind of insight from Nath."


Far from being thrown in the deep end, the pair have had Blues legend and eighth Immortal, Andrew Johns, helping their cause.

Johns, as part of Brad Fittler's coaching staff, has spoken in depth to both players about their roles on Wednesday night.

"Early on in the camp, we caught up with Joey. He said he wanted us to come up with a couple of plays, how we want to play," Walker said.

"Joey wanted us to come with some plays from different points on the park and that's how we will play. I'll be very excited and have some nerves as well. I just can't wait to get out there."

After a modest start to the year with the struggling Penrith Panthers, Cleary will be under pressure given his selection was somewhat contentious.

Rooming with a confident and outgoing Walker has lifted Cleary's sagging demeanour over the past week.

Blues brains trust. Picture: Brett Costello
Blues brains trust. Picture: Brett Costello

"I didn't know Cody at all before coming into this camp so it was important we formed a relationship. We get along well. I'm really looking forward to playing with him," Cleary said.

"Cody plays on the left and I usually play the right but we've been given the freedom to roam where we want. It's a good game plan and I like playing that way anyway."

Cleary was part of the NSW side which famously secured last year's Origin series despite losing a dead-rubber third game.

"Lifting the shield here in Brisbane last year, although it was after a loss, which was disappointing, was one of the most amazing things I have experienced so far in my life," Cleary said

"I have some good memories. We didn't get to win that game so it would be nice to come up here and start the series with a win.

"But we know we have to work hard to get that done. And we will be doing everything we can to do that."