Cleary Grounded After Whirlwind Week
He made his State of Origin debut at age 20 on Wednesday and kicked the winning field goal for his club side 48 hours later, but it's not enough for the high standards of Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary.
After enjoying about as good a week a player ever has for his age in the NRL, Cleary remained typically grounded and humble when speaking after his side's last-gasp 23-22 win over the Canberra Raiders on Friday.
Despite having a self-confessed "ordinary" game against the Raiders, Clearly still possessed just enough of a Midas touch to slot the go-ahead field goal in the 78th minute.
"Very happy to get away with two wins this week - that was kind of the plan, making my Origin debut was a dream come true," Cleary said.
"It was a scrappy game we didn't play well including myself. I was pretty ordinary but as I said to get the win was the most important thing."
Despite Penrith possessing one of the best exponents of late-game field goals in the NRL in James Maloney, the veteran gave the nod to his younger halves partner to step up in another big moment.
"That's kind of my job, I had to take it," Cleary said.
"It was kind of in front, so I felt I owed the team because I did some terrible things on the field and hopefully I'll improve on them. I was happy to knock it over in the end and get the win."
Cleary said there was no hard feelings between he and Charlie Gubb after the Raiders interchange forward was placed on report for a dangerous tackle while Cleary was in the air during a kick.
"I'm not too sure what he was trying to do but he apologised after the game," he said.
"It was one of those in the moment things and I was in the air, it's kind of forgive and forget I suppose."
Clearly said he was still riding the high of New South Wales' 22-12 over Queensland at the MCG, saying it was the realisation of a lifelong goal.
"I can't even describe it given it's gone that quickly, I'm just so grateful. I'm just trying to ride the journey and I'm absolutely loving it," he said.
"I was speaking to Dad as I signed that contract (in under 20s) and we said '2019 when you're 21, that might be your chance to really push into first grade'. Next thing you know I'm playing first grade and to make my Origin debut at 20 years of age, it's a dream come true."
However, Cleary knows he still has an important job at club level to do ahead of a possible series-clinching victory on June 24, as Penrith travel to take on the Sydney Roosters next Friday night.
"I was still even this morning (Friday) thinking about the Origin game trying to wrap my head around it and coming back down to earth because it was such a surreal feeling," he said.
"But I'm happy we got through this one, got the win and now we've got a massive game against the Chooks coming up and then Origin after that.
"So, I'm just focused on getting my game right for Penrith for the game against the Chooks, they've been playing some good footy."