Nathan Cleary will make his State of Origin debut alongside clubmate James Maloney as the high-flying Panthers lead Brad Fittler’s NSW revolution for the State of Origin opener next month.
Fittler, one of Penrith’s favourite sons, has turned to the club’s 20-year-old halfback prodigy to usher in the Blues’ Generation Next with a record 11 Origin debutants still in line to tackle the Maroons at the MCG on June 6.
Boy in blue: Penrith’s exciting young playmaker Nathan Cleary has been selected to make his NSW debut.
And Cleary won’t be alone as Fittler made good on his promise to pick players from in-form NSW teams, with four Panthers expected to be included in the coach’s extended 19-man squad, which was finalised late on Sunday night.
James Maloney will partner Cleary in the halves despite a fierce push for Roosters pivot Luke Keary as Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Tyrone Peachey closed in on their Blues bows after the Panthers demolished the Dragons on Saturday night.
Fittler will trim his squad down to 17 players when he names his first NSW team at The Star on Monday night.
It will come with a predictable wave of NSW first-gamers as Fittler’s promised purge materialises.
Brisbane flyer James Roberts (Achilles) and Dragons bruiser Jack de Belin (hip) need to overcome problems to earn their first NSW caps, just two of a swathe of potential newcomers, including:
Only captain Boyd Cordner, his Roosters teammate James Tedesco, back-rowers Tyson Frizell and Jake Trbojevic, Bulldogs brute David Klemmer and Maloney are thought to have survived from last year's side.
Canberra whiz kid Nick Cotric and the Dragons’ Tariq Sims are likely to be used just as cover.
It was a day of mystery and intrigue as Fittler's new-look halves pairing was the subject of rampant speculation, with Cleary being considered a lock as Maloney and Keary were pitted in a race for the No.6 in the most contentious selection issue.
Cleary has needed less than a fortnight to impress on Fittler he's ready for his first Blues call after an early-season knee injury, which has seen him relinquish goalkicking duties to Maloney in big wins over the Tigers and St George Illawarra.
There were suggestions Fittler would include both Cleary and Maloney alongside Keary in an expanded squad, but the decision has been made and Maloney will help steer the Blues against Queensland.
The normally circumspect Panthers coach Anthony Griffin went out of his way to hail Maloney as NSW's best playmaker after the Dragons rout as the man himself admitted he would be dejected if he wasn't one of the few NSW survivors from last year's series.
Tedesco shook off a challenge from Manly's Tom Trbojevic to wear the NSW No.1 after the pair waged a long battle to be the Blues' fullback, but Fittler has decided to still use Trbojevic on the wing.
Tedesco, one of NSW's best despite last year's series collapse, sealed his spot with a strong display against the Titans on Saturday as he finally finds his feet at the Roosters.
And the entire starting front row could be Origin rookies, led by Kangaroos representative Campbell-Gillard.
"I'm not a selector and I'm not Freddy Fittler and I'll wait until Monday to find out what that team is," Campbell-Gillard said. "It's going to be a nervous time, but we'll see what happens."
Likely Blues squad for Origin I:
1. James Tedesco
2. Josh Addo-Carr
3. Latrell Mitchell
4. James Roberts
5. Tom Trbojevic
6. James Maloney
7. Nathan Cleary
8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard
9. Damien Cook
10. Paul Vaughan
11. Tyson Frizell
12. Boyd Cordner (c)
13. Jake Trbojevic
14. Tyrone Peachey
15. David Klemmer
16. Jack de Belin
17. Angus Crichton
18. Tariq Sims
19. Nick Cotric
Source: Read Full Article