Small balls and cold weather to blame for Kangaroos star Nathan Cleary’s World Cup goalkicking woes - and it might mean

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josie andrews
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Small balls and cold weather to blame for Kangaroos star Nathan Cleary’s World Cup goalkicking woes - and it might mean

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Nathan Cleary says he is struggling to goal kick with a lighter ball in England

The Panther knows he could be shuffled out of the role for a number of options

Valentine Holmes is the only other player to have kicked in the campaign

Panthers golden boy Nathan Cleary has hit a rough patch in goal kicking form - cursing the lightweight, smaller design of the English league balls, which could mean his exit from an otherwise spotless Kangaroos outfit.

The back-to-back premier has been in a tussle for the national halfback position with Sea Eagles veteran Daly Cherry-Evans.

Yet, a recent slump in conversion form from the 24-year-old could spell his sacking for Australia's upcoming semi-final against New Zealand.

Cleary has missed nine two-point opportunities over three games, many of those falling short.

The Penrith star was terrific with the boot from any angle this year, finishing the season with a 85 per cent strike-rate.

He could be discarded for a number of many other kicking options that coach Meninga has entertained previously.

The big boot of Valentine Holmes guided the Kangaroos to a perfect conversion rate in their round one clash against Fiji, kicking seven from seven.

Rabbitohs fullback Latrell Mitchell may also be called upon, given his extra distance and hang time from corner positions.

Cleary is eager to work on adapting to the new shape, but is accepting if the role gets passed on.

'I need to watch it back and work it out,' he said.

'I think there are little things I can adjust. We will do it this week. I can’t blame the balls. It is pretty cold but it is not dissimilar to Penrith ... it was just, excuse my French, s*** kicking.

'If it keeps going that way, we have pretty good goal kickers in the team as well.'

Coach Mal Meninga says he will let the playing group decide who wears the kicking cap for Australia.

Meninga knows Cleary is at times an over-trainer and can perfect a part of his game that is already unmatched.

We’re leaving him behind now he practises that bloody long. We want to get back for lunch. The balls are different over here,' the former Kangaroos skipper said.

'He’s working his butt off to get it right. They’re a bit lighter. They’re a bit smaller. Just a fraction smaller and a fraction lighter than what we have in Australia.'

It's not just Australia who are in a kicking conundrum.

New Zealand have been kicking poorly throughout their World Cup campaign, having used four players at tee time so far, including Dylan Brown and winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

Jordan Rapana has proved their no.1 goal kicker, slotting three from four to sneak the Kiwis home against Fiji in their quarter final. ... -woes.html
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage. #18thMan
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