Penrith Panthers want protection for Nathan Cleary in State of Origin; Brisbane Broncos’ Corey Oates set to edge out Selwyn Cobbo for Origin wing spot

“We didn’t get any calls [tonight], and the McLean one is usually a penalty,” Nathan Cleary said. “Usually, it doesn’t matter what happens, if you end up in a dangerous position it is a penalty.”

Nathan Cleary is hit late by North Queensland’s Jordan McLean.Credit:NRL Photos

When asked if Queensland would adopt the same tactics on Wednesday week, Cleary said: “Yeah, probably. Origin is a beast in itself and there’s not too many penalties in that.

“I am fine with that. I look forward to the challenge every time I play it. They have [targeted me in the past]. It’s the hardest stage to play on. You just don’t get a lot of time. It’s something I look forward to. It’s a great challenge and something I have to try and combat.”

Nathan Cleary is hit hard by Reece Robson after kicking the ball.

Nathan Cleary is hit hard by Reece Robson after kicking the ball.Credit:Getty

Five-eighth Jarome Luai was far from happy with the late shots on his halves partner and told The Sun-Herald: “I thought some of those tackles were questionable. Nat said he got hit pretty hard there, and I thought a couple were penalties.

“Nat is tough and finished the game. It’s something we can’t control. I know we get penalised for it. Hopefully there is a bit of consistency there [next Wednesday].

“It’s something we can’t control. They have the whistle in the mouth. We get penalised for it. Hopefully there’s a bit of consistency there [moving forward].”

Luai was charged with a grade-one careless high tackle on Scott Drinkwater late in the game, but can escape with a $1000 fine.

“I was reading the play; I know he [Drinkwater] is a great attacking weapon, and I wanted to get up quickly,” Luai said of the tackle. “I’m not too sure if it was a shoulder charge. It happened quickly. I spoke to him after the game and he was all sweet.”


Luai is short odds to retain his place in Brad Fittler’s side for his second Origin campaign alongside good mate Cleary and up to five other Panthers teammates: Isaah Yeo, Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Api Koroisau and Liam Martin.

“I need to get picked first, but I am excited,” Luai said. “I’ve experienced the arena before, it’s not unknown territory to me now, and I’d be more excited to see a few of the boys here get their opportunity.

“‘Critta’ [Crichton] has stepped up in big games and in the big moments, and if ‘Freddy’ picks him, he won’t let anyone down.”

Oates set to edge out Cobbo for Origin wing spot

Brisbane winger Corey Oates may have edged out clubmate Selwyn Cobbo for a spot on the Maroons wing after a strong showing in Brisbane’s comeback win against the Titans on Friday night.

Oates hasn’t played Origin since 2019 and has been locked in a battle with Cobbo to partner Melbourne’s Xavier Coates for the Origin opener in Sydney on June 8. North Queensland’s Kyle Feldt is out of the running with a knee injury.

Corey Oates has been in great form in 2022.

Corey Oates has been in great form in 2022.Credit:Getty

Cobbo is the eye-catching youngster and has been brilliant for the Broncos this year. But the 19-year-old represents a riskier proposition at Origin level at this stage of his career, while Oates is a hardened veteran who could represent the safe bet for new Queensland coach Billy Slater and his selection team.

Oates played eight games for Queensland from 2016 to 2019 and may have felt like his representative career was over. He tried to experiment with a move to the back row but has thrived on the wing again in 2022, scoring 10 tries as the Broncos have gone on a six-game winning streak.

“It would be awesome,” Oates said of a potential recall. “I just try and play for my club first and get the rewards off that. If I get the call, I’d be over the moon. It’s been a while for me.

“I’m just happy to be enjoying footy again and playing well. If that call comes, I’d be stoked.

“[The coaches are] very smart minds, greats of the game, some of the best players to ever lace on the boots. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it?”

Queensland will announce their squad on Monday morning and there is precious little conjecture about the key positions. The only real decisions selectors will make will revolve around the forward pack and who slots in where on the interchange bench.

Kalyn Ponga, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans and Harry Grant are destined to be the spine, with Josh Papalii and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui making up an imposing middle rotation that could also include Brisbane’s Pat Carrigan, South Sydney’s Jai Arrow and Lindsay Collins from the Roosters.

Kurt Capewell and Felise Kaufusi will be the edge forwards, with Ben Hunt picking himself as a utility player after some strong form for the Dragons and proven effectiveness at Origin level.

Perhaps the most interesting selections will revolve around the outstanding young forwards from North Queensland, who have helped the Cowboys entrench themselves in the NRL top four midway through the season.

Reuben Cotter looks the most likely inclusion and seems to be exactly the kind of fearless, unrelenting player Queensland treasure. And Slater has already hinted that he will seriously consider boom North Queensland back-rower Jeremiah Nanai as part of his squad after his breakout season in Townsville.

The Maroons will assemble in Brisbane before moving to their base at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast, where Slater will be joined by his all-star coaching panel of Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston.

Stream the NRL Premiership 2022 live and free on 9Now.

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