Now Cleary can focus can focus on getting right for NSW. Image: Brett Costello
Now Cleary can focus can focus on getting right for NSW. Image: Brett Costello

Cleary’s secrets to beating self-doubt

NATHAN Cleary writes himself positive notes every night before going to sleep. Three, to be precise.

He then reads them in the morning before he starts his day.

The NSW halfback revealed his nightly ritual where he writes down three positive elements of his day on a notepad in his search for a "positive mindset."

Which, lately, he has needed more than any time in his young career as he has battled self-doubts so much this season, that even he admitted to questioning whether he would retain his State of Origin place.

But the 21-year-old has found that escape from rugby league.

Aided by his two tradie roommates, who have helped keep him calm during tough times. After a tumultuous season where his form wavered, Cleary was drafted back into the Blues side and knows he must rid himself of negative thoughts if he is to perform.

"It's probably the thing I am working on most at the moment, when self-doubt kicks in, I just try and get from a medium mindset to a positive one. You're not going to get too much done if you're negative all the time," Cleary said.

It’s been a tough season so far for Cleary. Image: Brett Costello
It’s been a tough season so far for Cleary. Image: Brett Costello

"I've been working on mindset stuff. Gratitude really comes into it. I've been trying before I got to bed to write down three things I am grateful for, that helps and makes you grateful for everything and not to take anything for granted, even when things aren't going the best.

"It's not about changing things, just focusing on what you need to do and what's important for the team.

"It's pretty simple but gets you in a positive mindset just before you go to bed and makes you not over think things, which I tend do. It helps get back to a positive mindset."

Cleary knows the weight of expectation. Image: Brett Costello
Cleary knows the weight of expectation. Image: Brett Costello

Despite Penrith languishing at the bottom of the NRL table, Cleary said finding positives was easy.

"It isn't a struggle. We're pretty lucky in this life," he said.

"Simple things like waking up in a bed, having a family, going to training with all the boys; things as footballers we sometimes take for granted in life.

"There's lot more than football but it is our job and important for us so to get the best out of it, you can't be down in the dumps. It help get away from those self-doubts."

It helps to keep some perspective, especially in the NRL bubble. Image: Phil Hillyard
It helps to keep some perspective, especially in the NRL bubble. Image: Phil Hillyard

Cleary was a contentious selection due to Penrith's poor form, with South Sydney's Adam Reynolds and Newcastle's Mitchell Pearce gunning for his spot.

"I can't lie - it did take a toll but that's just what comes with footy. I just had to get on with it and ignore the outside noise as much as I could and get on with my job. This year has been tough at times but I am really lucky with the people I have around me," he said.

Asked what toll it took, Cleary said: "Mentally, I suppose. I was probably reading too much stuff and self-doubts started to kick in. Being a footy player, you've got to deal with those things because there's always going to be criticism - and so there should be.

Now Cleary can focus can focus on getting right for NSW. Image: Brett Costello
Now Cleary can focus can focus on getting right for NSW. Image: Brett Costello

"Sometimes there are things (said and written) that are definitely right but some other stuff isn't right. Most of the time I am good with myself - I have a good self- assessment and know where I'm going wrong.

"It's hard to read that stuff but I know where I need to be better. And obviously I wasn't playing my best at the start of the year and I have to get past that now."

And his two roomies - old school buddies - help him through tough days.

"I actually live with two guys that don't play footy - they are both tradies, that helps. I get back home to them and they're always in a good mood and bring me 'up' a bit," he said.

"One's name is Connor, the other is Johnny; a spring fitter and a plumber. They are always into me and keep me grounded. It's a good mix-up.

"I come home absolutely filthy after a loss and they don't really understand - they're all chirpy and happy. That helps me get my mind off things which is good. I just try and get away from it all, I switch my phone off when I can and not listen to all the outside noise.

"It's been a bit of a rollercoaster to start the year and luckily it's on the up now. I was stoked to get the call and great to come back into camp and I can now put my best foot forward."