Cleary, Luai to take club combination to rep level after being named NSW halves

Brian To'o in action for Penrith. Photo: NRL Photos.
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Six Penrith players have been named in the New South Wales squad for the first game of the State of Origin series.

Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo have all been named in Brad Fittler’s top 17 for the opening battle with Queensland.

Api Koroisau has been named as 18th man.

Penrith last had five Blues representatives in 1989 – Greg Alexander, John Cartwright, Mark Geyer, Chris Mortimer and Peter Kelly. Should Koroisau get on the field it will mark record representation by Penrith for the Blues.

Alan McIndoe represented QLD in the 1989 series and Kurt Capewell is likely to be selected for the Maroons tomorrow.

Nathan Cleary will again play for the Blues. Photo: NRL Photos

The huge surprise is the call-up of Martin, who had a breakout 2020 season but was expected to be left out of Fittler’s side. An ankle injury to Newcastle’s Tyson Frizzel this afternoon opened the door for Martin.

Luai beat out Canberra’s Jack Wighton to the number six number, ensuring the Penrith halves pairing would be replicated at State level. Wighton has been named on the bench.

“I’m really happy with the squad we’ve announced to face the Maroons for the opening game of the series,” NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler said.

“We’ve got a good mix of players from in-form teams and players who have worn the NSW Blues jumper with distinction in the past and never let their state down.

“I’m looking forward to working with all the players in camp and I’m confident our preparation will stand us in good stead to try and win back the Origin Shield.”

Liam Martin in action for Penrith. Photo: NRL Images.

The incredible representation by Penrith leaves Ivan Cleary with plenty of headaches heading into Friday night’s clash with the Wests Tigers, with no Origin players available for selection.

Matt Burton and Tyrone May will almost certainly be the new halves combination with Mitch Kenny at hooker.

Blues team: James Tedesco, Brian To’o, Latrell Mitchell, Tom Trbojevic, Josh Addo-Carr, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Daniel Saifiti, Damien Cook, Jake Trbojevic, Cameron Murray, Tariq Sims, Isaah Yeo. Bench: Jack Wighton, Junior Paulo, Payne Haas, Liam Martin. 18th/19th man: Api Koroisau, Campbell Graham.

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