Cleary can't understand questions over Luai's No.6 pick

·2-min read
Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS

Nathan Cleary says doubts over Jarome Luai's selection in the NSW State of Origin side were over the top, backing the five-eighth to prove a point in the series opener.

Luai appeared under pressure to keep his No.6 jersey as recently as a month ago, with Nicho Hynes in sparkling form at Cronulla, and Penrith's attack spluttering.

Cleary largely attempted to stay out of the selection debate in the lead-up to Game I, simply saying he thought club combinations were helpful in Origin.

But now Luai has held his spot at five-eighth and Hynes has still won his way into the side as a bench utility, and spending time training at dummy-half on Tuesday, Cleary is happy to admit he is relieved.

He and Luai have played together since under-16s at Penrith, and have won 78 of 87 games alongside each other in the halves at under-20s, NRL and Origin level.

Cleary has also grown tired of the spotlight being thrust upon his close friend, and says most of it was unfair in the lead-up to the series.

"You try not to get frustrated with it, but I think a lot of the time it is over the top and it's pretty unnecessary," Cleary told AAP.

"I think the case with that is, if people are going to talk negatively about him so often, is when he does something good I want to see a lot of positive talk."

Luai has been known to thrive on questions over his form, answering his critics with a dominant 48-4 takedown of the Sydney Roosters a fortnight ago.

"It's how it is, he knows that and I think he has handled it really well. I think he grows a leg from it," Cleary said.

"In respects, yes (he will want to prove a point in Origin).

"But he also knows that there is more to this game than just him. That's what I always respect about 'Romey', he is always putting the team first.

"That's something that often gets overlooked too."

Luai admits he did feel the pressure in the past month, which is likely to come again if the Blues stumble in Adelaide and head to Suncorp Stadium 1-0 down.

"There's always that pressure," Luai told AAP.

"If you're not performing and you're not playing well, there's someone else out there who can perform well.

"There's always going to be that pressure every year, whether you're playing at club or whether you're fighting for a representative jersey.

"That's my mindset on it. You're only as good as your last game as well, so you've got to keep playing well."