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That's my boy: Luai's Origin statement has Cleary buzzing

Nathan Cleary spent time with Brad Fittler after Penrith's 48-4 smash-up of the Roosters by plotting the next challenge that awaits them - taking down Queensland in this year's State of Origin series.

Cleary is keen to stay clear of Fittler's final decision on who should partner him in the halves but he has made it no secret that his incumbent Origin five-eighth and Panthers teammate Jarome Luai is again the man this year.

Thankfully for Cleary, Luai didn't need any further backing verbally after he produced his best game of 2023 against the Tricolours with two try assists, 11 tackle busts and a try to silence the doubters on Friday night.

Luai, who is being heavily challenged by Dally M medal winner Nicho Hynes and in-form Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker for the Blues No.6 jersey, is now all but back in the box seat.

"If you talk about statements, he put on a pretty good one tonight," Cleary said.

Panthers v Roosters - Round 11, 2023

"That’s my boy and I’ve always enjoyed playing alongside him. He had that swagger about him and I love it when he’s like that.

"A lot people want to talk about him negatively so I hope there’s a lot talking about him positively after tonight. He earnt that. Some of the criticism he cops… it’s the game we play and he knows that.

"It’s frustrating but at the end of the day you can’t control it. I don’t think anything’s going to change in that regard. The teammates you’re playing with have your back and love you no matter what."

Nathan Cleary and the Steeden were one

Cleary acknowledged the challenge being thrown at Luai by Hynes and Walker, who he has spent time with at the Origin level previously, and said it was only healthy that Fittler had selection headaches to make throughout the side.

"State of Origin is always going to be like that, there will always be great players available," he said.

"Some are in very good form at the moment and it’s a luxury to have."

The Panthers moved two competition points closer to ladder-leaders Brisbane, who they'll face next week at Suncorp Stadium after piling on eight tries in their big win over the Roosters.

"It was a fun night, particularly back at home where we haven’t been for a month and with all the ’03 boys as well," Cleary said.

"The Roosters are a great team and star-studded across the park so very happy with the performance.

Purrfect Peachey

We haven’t felt like we’ve been far away, it’s just been lapses in concentration and teams have been playing really well against us – that’s what you’ve got to come to expect.

"At the end of the day we don’t have to make statements to anyone but ourselves. We’re constantly working on our game trying to get better and improve."

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.