Despite Queensland claiming him as one of their own, Keary was proud to finally make his debut for NSW. But he struggled to make an impact in Adelaide and was dumped less than 48 hours later.
Immortal Andrew Johns initially called for Keary to be axed for Walker, only to change his mind on Thursday and turn the blowtorch on Cleary.
Plenty of fans will continue to debate the merits in sticking with Cleary ahead of Keary. Others will even argue Jack Wighton deserves to come into the halves conversation.
Cleary was given little peace by the Queensland forwards – similar to the way the Melbourne big men hounded him all the way through the club decider – but was determined to make amends.
Despite returning next Wednesday to ANZ Stadium, the venue where he was visibly crushed on Grand Final night just a few weeks ago, Cleary said he had well and truly moved on from that heartbreak.
“It [the Grand Final loss] wasn’t on my mind at all,’ Cleary said in Adelaide.
“Once I got into camp it wasn’t that hard. It made it easy to move on and focus on my next job.
“We made too many errors [in game one], we couldn’t get to our last tackle and didn’t take enough juice out of the Queensland side.
“There were moments in that game I’d try and take over, relax a bit and try to relax the team. It got a bit frantic at stages, that’s what leads to dropped balls and stuff like that … we needed to calm down a bit when we were 10-0 up, especially in the first half, put it into the corners and stuff like that.”
Johns told colleague Andrew Webster on Thursday: “The more thought I give it, the more I’d like to see how Keary and Cody would go. More experience and Nathan’s had a long year. He’s young as a halfback at club level but in terms of Origin he’s a baby. This is the next development for Nathan as a halfback: create under pressure, under fatigue, with his team on the back foot.”
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