In a devastating blow to the NSW State of Origin team, Nathan Cleary sustained a hamstring injury just minutes into the Penrith Panthers‘ game against the St George Illawarra Dragons. The halfback had a lacklustre performance in the Blues’ Origin I loss on Wednesday and was hoping to make amends. However, in the 15th minute of the Sunday game, Cleary pulled up short while retreating in defence and immediately grabbed for his left hamstring. Dragons winger Mikaele Ravalawa scored on the opposite side of the field as Cleary tried to return to the defensive line before being ruled out of the game.
Cleary is set to undergo scans on his hamstring, and there are early indications that it is a low-grade injury. The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for NSW, as they need to win on Queensland soil to keep the State of Origin series alive. Cleary, who has been the Blues’ first-choice No.7 for several years now, will be sorely missed if he is unavailable.
If Cleary is ruled out, Dally M winner Nicho Hynes, Parramatta’s Mitchell Moses, and Broncos veteran Adam Reynolds are likely to come into contention at the NSW scrumbase. However, the Blues may struggle to find another player of Cleary’s calibre to lead the team. The pressure will be on these potential replacements to perform at the level needed to keep the State of Origin series alive.
NSW fans will be holding their breath as they await the results of Cleary’s scans, which could have far-reaching implications for the team’s chances in this year’s State of Origin series. The collapse of the Panthers‘ season in light of Cleary’s absence would also be a major concern for the club, which had high hopes of reclaiming the NRL premiership in 2023.