Nathan Cleary

Knee injury a blessing in disguise for Cleary

As revealed by NRL.com on Sunday night, Cleary has won the race for the NSW halfback spot and will play alongside Penrith teammate James Maloney in the halves at the MCG on June 6.

It caps a remarkable turnaround for the 20-year-old, who admitted following Saturday night's win over St George Illawarra that missing seven weeks with the first major injury of his career had given him a new perspective.

"I think it's kind of been a silver lining, my injury, in a way," Cleary said.

Cleary junior beats his dad

Cleary had missed the past seven matches with a knee issue but set up a first- half try and broke three tackles in a strong performance against his dad's Tigers side.

He has now won both contests against father Ivan but, more importantly, took a step towards a possible NSW debut two weeks before teams are selected for the State of Origin opener.

The halfback combined well with veteran James Maloney in a dominant first half at Penrith Stadium, where the hosts enjoyed triple the amount of plays inside the opposition 20-metre zone.

Soward's Blues team: Why Cleary shouldn't be picked yet

All things being equal with injuries and form, Cleary is going to be there for the next 10 years.

But for me, Cameron Smith's retirement press conference on Tuesday told us everything we need to know about Origin. The Queensland captain, who has more experience in the interstate arena than anyone else in history, spoke about how draining each campaign can be.

For a 20-year-old halfback, it's unfair to bring him in off, at best, two weeks' game time and preparation, which starts this Thursday against his old man's Wests Tigers side.

Cleary says he must improve to earn Blues jersey

Cleary, who used the emerging Blues camp on Saturday to learn about the Origin culture after missing junior representative opportunities as a teenager, has been touted as a strong chance to get the nod over incumbent Mitchell Pearce under new coach Brad Fittler this year.

"If I can take one or two things back to Penrith and put that into my game hopefully it can transcend to playing for NSW one day," Cleary told NRL.com.

Cleary built for Origin: Fittler

Speaking to media at a NSW Rugby League pathways program for up-and-coming playmakers, Fittler was hopeful the emerging generation of Blues playmakers would be able to arrest the dominance their Maroons counterparts have exerted in that position over the past decade.