‘The edge’ that has Cleary ready to rule Origin

Blues legend Peter Sterling believes Nathan Cleary holds a slight edge over his Queensland counterpart Daly Cherry-Evans in the battle of the State of Origin halfbacks.

Despite a Cherry-Evans clinic leading Queensland to a stunning 2-1 series upset over NSW last year, Sterling insisted Cleary’s year-on-year growth coupled with a Blues team littered with his Panthers teammates has the young halfback ready to rule.

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“I think the form of Nathan Cleary gives him the edge but the experience factor that Daly Cherry-Evans has is far superior to Nathan, even though he’s been thrown into Origin at a young age,” Sterling told Wide World of Sports’ Sterlo’s Wrap.

“I think Nathan has the edge, mainly because I think that the combination with Luai and with Isaah Yeo is important.

“I really like rep teams where the No.6, 7 and 13 all play for the same club. If that’s justified, I think that can be a real bonus, and Penrith have the scrum-based trio let’s call it.

“I’d go with Cleary but it’s just that much in front of DCE.”

As for their partners, Sterling said he was excited to see if Jarome Luai could bring his exuberant game at NRL level onto the Origin stage, but ultimately couldn’t look past Cameron Munster as the gold-standard five-eighth.

“Munster was the player of the series last year, he was the difference. And if Queensland are to win this year he may well be the difference this time,” Sterling said.

“But I am excited to see Jarome Luai at this level. I want to see if he can take that Penrith form and that energy and enthusiasm and infectious personality, and have that work at this level. I’ve got fingers crossed that it can.

“But we know Munster is going to throw things at NSW that are going to be difficult to counter-act because that’s the way he plays.

“If you’re talking about unpredictability in the game, and that we don’t have enough for it, Cameron Munster is the best at it.”

Sterling conceded the Maroons would undoubtedly look to exploit the diminutive halves in defence, particularly Luai, but said the pair were more than up to putting their body on the line in the big moments.

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“I think Jarome and Nathan are both really strong defenders, you don’t look at them and see a weakness or that they’re going to be worked over,” Sterling said.

“Obviously, Queensland are going to go at Jarome Luai a lot in this game and send forwards that way, but I don’t think there are any great concerns there, I don’t see any technical weaknesses and I certainly see plenty of bravery. He’s happy to put his body in front.”

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