AAP Rugby

Blues’ Cleary could’ve been in Denver

By AAP Newswire

He could've been experiencing the high altitude air of Denver rather than the State of Origin highs in Sydney.

NSW halfback Nathan Cleary has revealed owning a New Zealand passport could have meant representing the Kiwis against England in the controversial Test match in the US on Sunday.

Cleary was born in Sydney but spent much of his childhood in Auckland, where dad Ivan played and coached the Warriors before taking over at Penrith in 2012.

The Panthers star admitted he once considered making himself eligible for NZ before his parents intervened.

"I had a Kiwi passport but mum and dad didn't want me to play for them. I felt I was Australian the whole time anyway," Cleary told AAP.

"My little brother and sister were both born there so they've got Kiwi passports too. But I was born here, and both my parents are Australian, so it just felt right."

Not only could he have been performing the haka, but Cleary could've been lost to rugby league having grown up primarily playing soccer until he was 15.

He made a number of representative teams on the northern beaches and Auckland, and became a huge fan of Ronaldo in his days at Manchester United.

"I started playing soccer when I was four. You don't get to make many decisions at that age, and dad played it until he was 18 so I didn't really have a choice," he said.

"I enjoyed it. I became a big Manchester United fan and that's when I started following Ronaldo. I'm pretty into it. I love the World Cup - it's pretty cool when everyone stops and watches it."

Instead the 20-year-old has the chance to become just the second Blues halfback in 14 years to deliver an Origin shield to the state in Sunday's blockbuster at ANZ Stadium.

And the day before the Socceroos' crucial pool match against Denmark, Cleary says part of his rise can be credited to his once promising career in the round-ball game.

"Playing soccer, striking the ball, you'd like to think there's a fair bit of correlation there with my goalkicking and general kicking game. I reckon a lot of it came from that," he said.