Maloney Origin bid at risk over tackle woes
NSW selection adviser Greg Alexander has confirmed James Maloney is in danger of losing his Blues jersey despite a dominant first season for Penrith that has lifted his new club to second on the ladder.
Maloney was thought to be a lock for one of two NSW halves jerseys given his form and the lack of alternatives until it was revealed that new coach Brad Fittler wasn’t convinced of his claims.
The incumbent Blues No.6 has been superb in attack this season, but his defensive numbers are deplorable and Alexander said that was the key reason Fittler was looking elsewhere.
Maloney has missed 62 tackles in 2018 to be the clear competition leader in that statistical category and botched 12 tackles in an alarming performance against the Bulldogs.
It’s a flaw in the veteran’s game that has opened the door for Mitchell Moses, despite the disastrous season his club side Parramatta are having with the 23-year-old pulling the strings.
Alexander said the ball was in Maloney’s court.
“He’s struggling defensively and I know Freddy (Fittler) sees that as a pretty important component of what his halves are able to do,” he said.
“I just think it’s about attitude and decision making and hopefully Jimmy can come up with the right ones because he’s shown that he’s suited to Origin footy.
“I suspect that we’ll pick this side on form, it’s a chance for a pretty fresh start. I think there’ll be a number of players who haven’t played Origin before and I think Maloney’s experience could be very important.”
If Maloney fails to respond, it will leave the likes of Moses, Nathan Cleary and Luke Keary fighting it out for the No.6 and No.7 jerseys.
Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough is in the mix to replace Cameron Smith in Queensland’s Origin side.