Nathan Cleary said on Monday it would be devastating to miss a State of Origin decider, as he awaits scans on an ankle injury suffered in the Blues' Origin II win.
Cleary, who will have scans on Monday night when he returns to Sydney, told reporters playing in game three in Sydney with the series on the line was the kind of thing dreams were made of.
"Obviously really devastating. That's what dreams are made of playing in a game three decider, especially at ANZ, but there's not much you can do - that's how footy is," Cleary said.
"I'm sure whoever steps in if I'm not there will do a really good job, but fingers crossed I can make it."
NSW coach Brad Fittler said after the match the early signs were Cleary had suffered a syndesmosis injury, which would make him a very unlikely starter for Origin III on July 10.
"The docs reckon it's syndesmosis but I've never really had this injury before so I'm not too sure with grading-wise," Cleary said.
"I was a bit sore last night but I'll get back to Sydney and have the scans done and hope for the best."
Cleary injured his right ankle just before he and five-eighth James Maloney combined to put Tyson Frizell over for NSW's second try in the 19th minute and the 22-year-old playmaker was a passenger for the remainder of the first half until being replaced by Wade Graham at the interval.
It did not matter as the Blues continued their first-half domination and piled on another four tries but Cleary is in doubt for the decider on July 10 at ANZ Stadium and Mitchell Pearce appears the most likely option to replace after being approached by Fittler before each of the first two games.
"I had all the adrenaline going but I couldn't sprint, so I felt like a bit of a liability out there," Cleary said. "I didn't want to let anyone down so I had to just get through it and get to half-time.
"I said to Freddy 'I can do a job and make tackles if you want me to', but luckily enough we had Wade Graham on the bench and he came on in the second half and absolutely killed it, so it was a luxury to have."
Asked after the match if Cleary's injury would bring Pearce back into the equation, Fittler said: "I haven't thought about that. I thought Wade Graham did a brilliant job, he was incredible."
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The injury to Cleary was the latest twist in a week of upheaval for the Blues, which had ensured Fittler would be labelled either a genius or madman for making seven changes to the team beaten 18-14 in the series opener earlier this month.
The drama, which began almost as soon as Origin I ended when superstar centre Latrell Mitchell drove from Brisbane to Taree instead of flying back with the team and prop David Klemmer was ruled out with a fractured wrist, continued when Frizell injured his neck at the team hotel on Sunday.
Frizell sustained the injury picking up his baby and there were fears he would be unable to play but the second-rower was one of the stars of a win built on adversity and courage that now has NSW favourites to retain the State of Origin Shield in Fittler's second series as coach.
Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues
With Klemmer set to return for the series decider, Fittler now faces a vastly different problem than he did before the historic Origin in Perth as he must decide who to leave out of a team that silenced the critics in the most emphatic fashion.
Before the game there had been so many questions about the new look Blues team and Fittler's selection decisions after the narrow loss in Origin I.
Most of the debate had focused on the axing of Mitchell, who is regarded as one of the NRL's best players, after one below-par performance but Fitter also dropped five-eighth Cody Walker, centre Josh Morris and interchange second-rower Angus Crichton.
With Klemmer, winger Nick Cotric and interchange forward Payne Haas ruled out through injury, there were seven new faces from the team which lost the series opener and serious concerns about:
- Tom Trbojevic and Jack Wighton being chosen in the centres when neither usually plays there for their club;
- Rookie Newcastle prop Daniel Saifiti joining Paul Vaughan as the only specialist front-rowers;
- Veteran five-eighth James Maloney being recalled after Pearce ruled himself out with a niggling injuries.
However, if Fittler's philosophy had been to just pick the players he believed could help NSW win and find a position for them in the team it proved to be the right call in every case.
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 2 -
Venue: Optus Stadium, Perth
Maloney finished the game with two try assists, a line break, a 40/20 kick and two forced goal-line dropouts as he provided the direction the Blues missed with Cleary and Walker as the halves for Origin I – and he had to after the injury sustained by his Penrith halves partner.
The main recipient was Tom Trbojevic, who became the first NSW player to score three tries in an Origin match since Matt King in 2005 – the year before Queensland began their era of domination – and he had a roving role as two of his tries were scored on Wighton's side of the field.
Wighton and winger Blake Ferguson, who carried the ball 170 metres, made a game-high five tackle breaks each as the Blues cause headaches for the Queensland defence on the edges, while Saifiti ran 100 metres and helped give the Blues ascendency with quick play the balls.