Nathan Cleary, the halfback for the Panthers and NSW, will miss Origin II due to a hamstring tear sustained during the Dragons game on Sunday night. The scans conducted on Monday revealed that Cleary will be on the sidelines for at least six weeks, which puts game three on July 12 in jeopardy as well. Ivan Cleary, Nathan’s father, explained that it is a significant injury and the player would probably not participate in game two.
The absence of Cleary puts NSW coach Brad Fittler in a difficult position as he searches for a replacement for the crucial game two at Suncorp Stadium. The squad for the Brisbane match will be selected in a week, and Nicho Hynes, the Dally M Medal winner, could be placed as a frontrunner for the starting role after debuting on the bench during game one. Mitchell Moses of the Parramatta Eels and Broncos‘ veteran Adam Reynolds may also be considered.
The absence of Nathan Cleary from the NSW lineup is a significant blow to the team. With Queensland winning game one, the Blues will be eagerly looking for a win to level the series and need their best players on the field. The pressure will be on NSW to respond without Cleary, who has had an exceptional season so far.
Cleary’s injury highlights the risk of choosing Origin players who are carrying injuries from their club games. Although the four-day turnaround from game one is the longest available, it still places a high level of physical strain on players. However, Cleary displayed no signs of injury after game one, which makes his injury all the more surprising and distressing for the NSW team.
The six weeks on the sidelines for Cleary also impacts the Panthers, who are on top of the competition ladder and can ill afford to lose their premier halfback for an extended period. Penrith coach Ivan Cleary, who is also Nathan’s father, will be hoping for a speedy recovery from the injury to ensure his team maintains their position of dominance.
In the short term, it will be interesting to see who is chosen to replace Nathan Cleary for the Blues in game two. With only a week before the team is selected, Fittler will be under significant pressure to get the right player to lead the team against a strong Queensland outfit.