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Cleary weighs in on Origin loyalty debate

Ivan Cleary has launched a passionate defence of NSW halfback and son Nathan, saying the days of representative teams being based on form are "long gone".

Penrith's disastrous NRL season has not only resulted in them occupying last spot, but left Nathan under serious pressure to retain his spot for State of Origin I.

Former Blues No.7 Adam Reynolds is widely considered the main threat to Nathan's jumper after steering South Sydney to the top of the table.

The selection dilemma has rekindled debate between loyalty and form ahead of Sunday's NSW Origin team announcement on Sunday night.

However Ivan believes representative coaches in the modern era have shifted away from picking teams solely on how they are currently performing.

"It may have been one day about picking the players that are in form. That's been long gone," Ivan said on Wednesday.

"Rep teams haven't been picked like that for as long as I can remember."

The Penrith coach claims the unrelenting pressure on representative coaches to succeed has forced them to select teams they believe can win the game.

"Coaches and selectors are under so much pressure to actually win games, that they have to pick who they think is going to win the game," Ivan said.

"(It's) not necessarily a reflection of who's in form."

Luke Keary is tipped to claim the five-eighth spot from Nathan's Panthers teammate and incumbent James Maloney, who is suspended this week.

But who partners him in the halves is the biggest question, and Nathan will have one more chance to impress when Penrith face Parramatta on Thursday.

Reynolds gets his shot when the Rabbitohs host the Wests Tigers on Saturday.

Ivan admits Nathan is feeling plenty of heat given his NRL club's predicament, but reckons son is playing "alright" in a badly out-of-form outfit.

"I'm not sure everyone else understands why he was picked last year. He did the job for his team that he was asked to do," Ivan said.

"I wouldn't imagine it'd be much different, what he needs to do, if he was given the opportunity, but you'd have to ask (Brad Fittler) that.

"I think he's actually been playing alright for the player he is.

"Everybody should know that you don't become a great playmaker until you're 26, 27, won 50, 200 games.

"He's 21-year-old. He's got to where he is based on the same type of play he's still doing now. He's playing in a struggling team.

"For a 21-year-old kid, he's had an enormous amount of pressure on him. He's feeling that. I think he takes a lot of that on board."

© AAP 2019