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Flying Foxx: How speedster sparked Cleary's Origin rebirth

As the most scrutinised week of Nathan Cleary's career revealed "who is in your corner and who's not" to him, having the NRL's fastest man in sky blue proved the catalyst for the No.7's red-hot Origin II outing.

Cleary claimed man-of-the-match honours in Wednesday's 34-10 trouncing of Queensland while speedster Josh Addo-Carr finished with two tries, just reward for his efforts without the ball.

As Cleary stressed his five-star performance in Origin II was the product of a simpler game plan and not "going out there to shut up the critics", Addo-Carr's execution of rugby league's most basic task laid the platform for his halfback and the Blues' resurgence.

Time and again throughout the contest, Addo-Carr and Cleary caught Maroons rookie Phillip Sami on the hop with early kicks in behind him.

Addo-Carr clocked two of the fastest speeds recorded by the Telstra Tracker in 2020, hitting 36.4km/h and then 37km/h on two of his kick chases in the first half.

Cleary in turn forced two line drop-outs as he and Cody Walker produced what Phil Gould labelled "one of the best kicking displays I have seen from a halves pairing for as long as I can remember in Origin".

Match Highlights: Blues v Maroons

The 22-year-old halfback said Addo-Carr's lightning kick-chases for Melbourne had prompted the tactical change in which he punted early in the tackle count, negating the rushing defence that the Maroons and Storm have employed to stifle Cleary in recent times.

"You just look up and he is ready to go," Cleary said of Addo-Carr's critical defensive plays.

"Some massive plays from him, I just have to try and put it in the right spot and give him a chance. He just comes up with massive plays for the team.

"We have spoken about it, it's just having faith to do it.

"I just watched him playing for the Storm and he's always right up on the wing. Even playing against him it's scary, because he is right up there.

Cleary's man-of-the-match performance by the numbers

"I was just trying to work out what he liked and tried to form that combination."

Addo-Carr deflected all credit for the ploy to his playmaker.

"Nath is a great player, he's got a lot of potential, we were just feeding off each other. We had the right to do that, I feel like in game one we didn't. We put ourselves in a good position to do that," he said.

"Everyone knows Nath's got a good kicking game. All I've got to do is run fast, try and get to the ball as fast as I can. It's good that it paid off.

"Halfback is probably the most important position in terms of moving the team around, they have to worry about themselves but as a team we helped Nath get in good field position.

Fittler pays homage to Cleary's character

"As a right edge, Friz and Gutho were getting us organised and letting Nath know what we wanted and all Nath had to worry about was telling the middles what to do. It took a bit of pressure off Nath to simplify his job."

Cleary's spot at the scrumbase was debated endlessly leading into the must-win clash.

Just as he insisted leading into Origin II, Cleary said he did not take criticism from the likes of Immortal Andrew Johns personally, and did not take much notice at all of "outside noise" beyond the team's inner sanctum.

Addo-Carr steps back inside to score from a scrum

"I don't go out there to shut up the critics as some people would say," Cleary said.

"I go out there to make the people close to me proud.

"They can keeping talking all they want. Honestly, I'm in a position where I don't even really count for it anymore.

"I just appreciate those who are in my corner, who support me and I listen to what they say. There were a lot of people there this week and it separates who is in your corner and who's not."

The Panthers playmaker has spoken previously of his development between the ears when it comes to external opinions.

He has dominated headlines for the past fortnight as his underwhelming grand final and Origin I performances were dissected ad nauseam, a scenario that Cleary admits he would have struggled to handle this time last year.

"I think it definitely would have been a lot harder," he said.

Tedesco relishing extra responsibility

"I was probably buying into the outside noise too much. I have said before I was listening to other people's opinions.

"I think it's a natural reaction to have that, but it's just listening to the people who matter and what they want from you and what they want for the team.

"At the end of the day I always want to put the team first.

"A week's a long time in rugby league so we've got to get better and we know Queensland will get better so I'm looking forward to that challenge."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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