Nathan Cleary with the NSW Emerging Blues players.
Nathan Cleary with the NSW Emerging Blues players.

Rival’s praise: ‘He’s got Origin written all over him’

RIVALS have already given Penrith's new halves pairing the stamp of approval, with Cronulla's Luke Lewis claiming it will help Nathan Cleary blossom into a player to "build the NSW team around".

Cleary will combine for the first time with prize recruit James Maloney when Penrith host Parramatta in their NRL season-opener on Sunday.

But Wests Tigers playmaker Josh Reynolds is already toasting their combination, tipping the duo to "dominate" teams.

"Jimmy's biggest asset is his running game," Reynolds said of Maloney on Fox League's NRL 360.

"I think if Cleary takes on ball control his running game will just open up so much for Penrith and I think that is where they will dominate teams.

"He (Maloney) is a great ball player too and confident enough to take opportunities when they arise - I think they will be great together."

NSW coach Brad Fittler has already thrown down the challenge for the new Panthers halves, saying they have a golden opportunity to nail down Blues spots this year.

 

Penrith Panther players James Maloney and Nathan Cleary.
Penrith Panther players James Maloney and Nathan Cleary.

Cleary, 20, is poised to nab the NSW No.7 jersey off Mitchell Pearce if he can combine with incumbent Blues No.6 Maloney.

"When we played Penrith (last year) that's what I found - he was real calm, relaxed, nothing seemed to faze him too much and his kicking game was spot on," Lewis told Fox League.

"I think he is the bloke to build the NSW side around.

"He's got Origin written all over him."

Nonetheless, Lewis says Panthers fans will need to be patient with their star duo.

"It's the combination that he (Cleary) builds in the next six to 12 months (that) will nail ... that Origin spot," he said.

"I think they have got a good balance there.

"I think the combination will take a little bit just to get used to each other."

Cleary's main rival for a NSW halves spot is set to be Parramatta playmaker Mitchell Moses, who played under Fittler in Lebanon's Rugby League World Cup campaign.

They line up against each other on Sunday.

Maloney arrived at Penrith in the off-season as part of a player swap with Matt Moylan after two years at Cronulla.


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