NSW Blues legend Andrew Johns declares Nathan Cleary ‘the best player in the world’
Andrew Johns says Nathan Cleary is on the brink of his own great era and is confident the NSW No7 is ready to own a State of Origin series.
As a close confidant of Cleary, Johns sees several similarities between his own career and Cleary’s.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Andrew Johns declares Nathan Cleary the ‘best player alive’.
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The pair have had regular conversations over the seasons, with Johns acting as an additional mentor to Cleary during Penrith’s success.
But in this year’s Origin camp, rugby league Immortal likes to take a backseat.
In Cleary he sees a more mature player who has gone from teenage NRL debutant and 20-year-old Origin rookie to the game’s leading No. 7.
He also sees a man poised to dominate Origin after suffering the same defeat he missed in the early years of his career.
Cleary has won three out of five series he has played for NSW, one more than Johns in his first five years for the Blues between 1995 and 1999.
In 2000, Johns was able to take full control of the Origin arena, winning seven of his next ten games in a period of continued dominance for NSW.
“It was around the early 2000s when I thought I had reached that level,” Johns said.
“I was about 25 or 26, Nathan is the same age. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that he stays injury free in the next four or five years and sees another player.
“You will see a player fully evolve in the game.
“So the ceiling, who knows where it will go. Who knows how good he can get.”
Johns said it was around the age that he had his aha moment as a player, working under Warren Ryan at Newcastle.
And he could already see that happening for Cleary after winning two titles at Penrith last year and securing the No. 7 Kangaroos jersey at the World Cup.
“Once you’re on the field, you experience little scenarios and moments and it’s like I’ve been working towards that,” Johns said.
“That coach did that. He told me about that. And that’s what’s happening now for Nathan.
“He’s going to have moments in this series where as the game slows down, he’s going to have those aha moments.
“Nathan’s next challenge is to own an Origin series. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that’s it.”
Cleary is unfazed by the criticism that he doesn’t already own a series for NSW.
He’s more comfortable at camp now and had his moments with a man of the match performance in game two of 2020 and a big Blues Series win in 2021.
“I don’t really care (what people say). I know within myself what I want to do. I feel like I could have done a lot better on a lot of shows,” Cleary said.
But Johns’ support is very important to the 25-year-old.
“It definitely gives me confidence,” Cleary said.
“I know what I want to get out of myself and I feel like I’m definitely ready for it.”