Nathan Cleary was given a pleasing wake up call by Brad Fittler. Picture: Cameron Spencer
Nathan Cleary was given a pleasing wake up call by Brad Fittler. Picture: Cameron Spencer

Monday Buzz: Cleary’s Origin wake up call

Nathan Cleary was enjoying a relaxing Sunday morning sleep-in on Sunday when his mobile phone rang and woke him up.

Often you wouldn't answer at that time on a weekend, except if it's flashing up Brad Fittler's name and there's a State of Origin team about to be picked.

Ending months of nervous speculation over the NSW No.7 jersey, Fittler broke the news to Cleary that he was in the side.

"Yeah, I definitely woke him up," Fittler said, "He was sleepy but obviously very happy."

Fittler and his selection adviser Greg Alexander made the decision to run with Cleary despite knowing South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds had been cleared by X-rays.

"There's been a lot of talk about Nathan and all the halfbacks," Fittler said.

"We picked him because we think he'll get the job done. Simple as that."

No player has gone into a Blues State of Origin campaign under more pressure than the Panthers halfback for many years.

 

Fittler stuck strong with his incumbent halfback. Picture: Brett Costello
Fittler stuck strong with his incumbent halfback. Picture: Brett Costello

 

On form this year Cleary does not deserve to be in the NSW side, even without Luke Keary and Mitchell Pearce who succumbed to injuries.

He has been picked for playing satisfactorily in last year's series win. It's called loyalty.

The Panthers are running last and the playmaking has been their biggest problem.

Penrith has been tackled more times in the opposition red zone this year than any other team yet Cleary and James Maloney haven't converted the field position into tries.

To make it even tougher on Origin night, the Panthers halfback is playing alongside a new five-eighth in Cody Walker.

It takes more than half a dozen ballwork sessions to form great combinations.

This is enormous pressure for a 21-year-old footy player.

Reynolds can consider himself desperately unlucky.

The Rabbitohs halfback has steered his side to the top of the premiership ladder and played stylishly and consistently since March.

He also has the club relationship with Walker, Damien Cook and Cameron Murray.

That he missed out shows the high level of confidence Fittler and Alexander have in Cleary.

That Sunday wake-up call was what the Panthers halfback needed.