Mitchell Moses in State of Origin masterclass as NRL fans call out brutal Nathan Cleary detail

The Eels halfback has shut down his critics in one of the great Origin performances.

Nathan Cleary could be set for a battle to reclaim the Blues No.7 jersey as fans anointed player-of-the-match Mitchell Moses as the future long-term halfback for NSW after arguably the best performance in six years. Cleary was ruled out of the Origin series after re-injuring his hamstring playing for the Panthers in the NRL.

With the Blues facing another series defeat at the MCG, Moses put on arguably the best game from a Blues playmaker in years having led NSW to a 34-0 half-time lead. It was the most points ever scored in the first-half of State of Origin as the Maroons looked shellshocked.

Nathan Cleary and Mitchell Moses.
Nathan Cleary might have a fight to get the NSW halfback role back from Mitchell Moses. Image: Getty/Channel 9

Moses had the ball on a string in the first 40 minutes having provided three try assists and kicked for 220 metres having rendered the Maroons playmakers useless. One perfect kick to Zac Lomax summed up Moses' dominance over the Maroons defence as he appeared to have all the time in the world to dictate play. He added another try assist in the second half, which was the tied most assists from a State of Origin playmaker in history. He moved alongside Brad Fittler who provided four try assists in 2000.

Latrell Mitchell carried an aura about him into the Origin arena and was sensational, but it was Moses who walked away with the player-of-the-match honours after outshining Maroons halfback Daly Cherry-Evans in Melbourne.

Blues legend Andrew Johns recognised Moses' time on the ball in the first-half, which saw the Eels playmaker recognise Reece Walsh was out of position ahead of a Blues try. Johns gave Moses the ultimate tribute in the must-win clash.

“Mitchell Moses looks up and he sprints from the right-hand side of the ruck to the left-hand side. He saw, looked up and saw Reece Walsh, which he’s over on the left side. Brings the defence. Gets it in behind,” Johns said. “It was too easy.”

Moses' performance has prompted talks over whether Panthers halfback Cleary walks straight back into the Blues No.7 jersey. There is no doubt Cleary has dominated the NRL scene for a number of years having guided the Panthers to three-straight premierships. He has been the best halfback in the competition.

However, one of his biggest criticisms is he hasn't dominated the Origin arena. Cleary will not be back fro the State of Origin 2024 series after it was announced he would most likely return in round 20.

Jarome Luai and Mitchell Moses talk to coach Michael Maguire.
Jarome Luai and Mitchell Moses were outstanding for Blues agains the Maroons.

Cleary has played in 14 Origin appearances having won seven and lost seven games. Moses has been behind Cleary for some time and his record across five games isn't any better.

But Moses managed to put in a dominant and confidence performance wearing the No.7 jersey, which has been absent from Cleary's game. Cleary did earn player-of-the-match honours in 2022, but it wasn't in the same fashion as Moses. Fans have quickly started the debate on whether Moses deserves to keep his position in the No.7 jersey regardless of the series result to give him a full three games to prove his worth.

Others have suggested Moses could shift to five-eighth, which would allow Cleary to return at halfback next year. This is despite Jarome Luai also putting in his best performance in the No.6 jersey for NSW. Regardless, the competition for the Blues playmaker roles suggests NSW could be competing for the Origin shield for years to come.

Former Blues coach Phil Gould Mitchell put down the Blues' dominance to the stunning performance from both halves. “It all comes on the back of halves. The No.7 and the No.6. Their leadership and their confidence, their direction and their delivery, their kicking game has just driven Queensland mad,” Gould said after 40 minutes.

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“Everyone else in a blue Jersey has to run hard. They’re putting you in the right place and running at the right hold. Queensland have had absolutely no answer what so ever. Mitchell Moses, absolutely stellar. He’s come of age on the representative scene here this evening. He’s run the whole show."