Nathan Cleary is still learning what being on Origin player is all about. Picture: Brett Costello
Nathan Cleary is still learning what being on Origin player is all about. Picture: Brett Costello

Cleary is struggling to cope with Origin challenge

NATHAN Cleary kicked the winning field goal as the Panthers edged the Raiders in a thriller just two days after he marshalled the Blues to Game I victory on his Origin debut.

He also had a hand in a try in Canberra as well as two line break assists.

But the heavy toll of Origin seemingly hit him and the other three NSW combatants in the side the next week as they were out-enthused by the Roosters, going down 32-6.

Cleary has since revealed he underestimated how the rep period would affect him.

"It's a lot tougher than I thought it would be," Cleary said.

"I always knew it would be hard, but once you actually go through it, it's a weird period. Your mind can be elsewhere as you go from team to team."

He said it's the mental drain rather than the physical cost that hurts the most.

Nathan Cleary with Blues and Panthers teammate James Maloney. Picture: Brett Costello
Nathan Cleary with Blues and Panthers teammate James Maloney. Picture: Brett Costello

"There is a lot of energy that gets sapped out from Origin, and mainly mentally. So much goes into the game and your whole mindset is thinking about that one game," he said.

"You really get up for it but your preparation is then dented for the next couple of club games because your mind is elsewhere and you're still thinking about Origin.

"I'm here now, I'm ready to go and I'm looking forward to Sunday. That's my only focus."

The 20-year-old said he is learning to negotiate the demands with the help of his experienced halves partner James Maloney.

"I'm lucky I've got Jimmy here who has been through it all before and helps guide me through it," he continued.

"You look at Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Jimmy who have been doing it for years, especially like Cameron who has played so many games and in the middle of the field. It's unbelievable to see.

"When they back up they always play well. I definitely have an appreciation for it. People outside looking in take it for granted how well they go backing up. It's a pretty crazy feat."


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