PENRITH young gun Nathan Cleary admits he doesn't feel ready to step into the State of Origin cauldron.
Calls are growing louder for NSW to throw the 19-year-old into the deep end in a desperate attempt to end a decade of suffering at the hands of Queensland, and to begin a new era for the Blues.
Cleary's form at club level has been outstanding and he took charge on-field for the Panthers this year.
He was even rated by many alongside Daly Cherry-Evans as the NRL's best in-form half.
But he isn't buying the hype surrounding his Origin chances in 2018.
"I know there's been a lot of talking about it as of late, but I still don't think I'm ready for it at the moment," Cleary told 20FOUR in 2017 Exit Interview - Year in Review: Nathan Cleary.
"Hopefully with a big start to the year I can take some things on board and then maybe be ready for Origin.
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"I think I developed this year, there's still a lot more development to come.
"At the moment I don't really feel I'm ready for Origin. I think there's a few better halfbacks in NSW at the moment.
"Hopefully I can get a good start to the year and we'll see what happens."
Penrith had been tipped for big things in 2017 but fell flat for most of the season.
A late charge towards the back end of the schedule rocketed the team into finals, thanks in large to their young star playmaker.
The Panthers endured a number of off-field issues throughout the season and they often involved some of the club's biggest name players.
Cleary admits the drama surrounding the team oftend had an impact on its performances.
"As much as we didn't want to think about it it was always kind of in the back of our minds," he said.
"It was hard to get a bit of rhythm with injuries or something happening outside the team.
"But that sort of drew us all closer together and made us able to make that run for the finals at the back end of the year, and probably made us strong as players and as a group."
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