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Blues' Dally M dominance clearly doesn't impress Cleary

A champion team will always beat a team of champions but the Blues clearly have the edge if you base Origin I on the 2020 Dally M leaderboard.

NSW halfback Nathan Cleary, who was a heavy favourite to win the Dally M Medal but lost out to Blues teammate Jack Wighton, does not place much stock in the form guide dictating who'll win on Wednesday night at the Adelaide Oval.

Cleary knows the Blues have a squad in form and bristling with depth but remains wary of the underdog status the Maroons will thrive on throughout the Ampol State of Origin series. 

Eight NSW players finished in this year's Dally M leaderboard top 20 compared to the Maroons' three.

Four players in the Dally M top five will take the field in sky blue on Wednesday night – Wighton, Clint Gutherson, Cleary and Luke Keary with only retired Queenslander Cameron Smith (fourth place) breaking up the NSW dominance.

It is the Blues' heaviest representation in the Dally M top five state since 2009.

Injured Maroons fullback Kalyn Ponga ranked ninth with Harry Grant (11th) - a squad member not chosen for game one - and five-eighth Cameron Munster the best-ranked Queensland player who will be running onto Adelaide Oval.

The Blues will enter the series opener as heavy favourites to overcome an inexperienced Queensland outfit that has been decimated by injuries and suspension.

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South of the border and Brad Fittler's preparations in picking a side couldn't have been any smoother with several players in form across each position.

"That's the most important thing, and I think the team who will win Wednesday night is the team that works hardest and shows the most teamwork," Cleary said on Monday.

"That's been as much the focus as the technical stuff. The things about Origin that are non-negotiables, just working hard and teamwork.

"They are always going to be tough games and close. You have to trust people inside and outside of you. Work hard for them and whoever does that best will come out with the win."

Cleary's combination with Keary is untested at any level with only a week's preparation and some time spent at a NSW camp in 2018 to note.

With both players playing a dominant role for their club sides, Cleary acknowledged find the right balance would be key to success.

"Obviously Origin might be a bit different with us all swinging around the field, and when Cody comes on too," Cleary said.

"It's just about trying to find that right balance. That's what we've been working on the past few days.

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"I probably won't have as many touches there. Obviously, with Luke there, he is awesome with the ball too.

"I think more the time when I get the ball it will be just trying to create space for them and that will be my main focus."

Meanwhile, Cleary was adamant he's overcome last week's grand final loss in the short-term  – a defeat that he'd otherwise be dwelling on all pre-season until he was able to take the field again.

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"After the game, I was devastated like everyone was but I had to rebound quickly," he said.

"It's always going to be there. I've just accepted the fact I can't change the game now so I just have to control what I do moving on and try and get better as a player and person and have it happen again.

"Any other year I would be in the off season with that in my last game, and I would be reflecting on that. I am lucky this has come around, just being able to put on a NSW jersey is a dream come true."

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.