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Talking with James Maloney about Origin and Nathan Cleary

James Maloney and Nathan Cleary of New South Wales. Paul Kane/Getty Images

One of the NRL's greatest journeymen, success seems to follow James Maloney wherever he goes.

With a silky skill set, cool head and excellent football IQ, Maloney was part of the Melbourne Storm's 2009 premiership winning* squad before driving the New Zealand Warriors to the Grand Final as their first-choice five-eighth in 2011.

He went on to join the Sydney Roosters in 2013 where he would immediately taste premiership success, repeating this feat in 2016 when he led the Cronulla Sharks to its first premiership in almost 50 years in his first year with the club.

Unsurprisingly, his domination of clubland translated well to State of Origin football where he became a NSW mainstay with 14 games under his belt.

His most recent Origin success came in 2019 when he lifted NSW to its second consecutive series title despite missing out on selection in Game One.

"When I got overlooked, I went to training and I sort of heard whispers," Maloney told the Talking with TK podcast.

"We weren't going that well at Penrith, so it wasn't that surprising - we were probably sitting in last on the table.

"To me it was always going to be a big call for Freddie to pick the two halves out of the side sitting at the bottom of the table.

"My biggest concern was probably not even me missing out, it was having Nathan (Cleary) there who's only a young kid.

"And having seen firsthand the backlash that comes if you lose, especially on the halves - I'd seen 'Pearcey' (Mitchell Pearce) cop hammering after hammering so unfairly - I didn't want that for Nathan.

As the senior playmaker, Maloney is credited with much of the Blues' success in recent years, taking on the bulk of the organisation as NSW ushered in its next generation in halfback Nathan Cleary.

"I don't think it was a strategy, I just think it was (because) it was Nathan's first year so I wanted to take as much pressure off him and let him do what he does," Maloney explained.

"A real strength of Nathan that a lot of people overlook is that he does so much of the real little things that a lot of people don't notice.

"Sometimes people want to see the big plays and the fancy stuff and the glory plays but he does a lot of the little things really well.

"I just wanted him to not have the pressure of doing that."

Despite having built a reputation for being one of the NRL's most carefree spirits, Maloney's reaction to NSW's last gasp victory in 2019 was uncharacteristically mature.

"For me, it was probably a little bit of relief," he laughed. "Because personally, for me, in that last ten minutes there were quite a few errors and some things I needed to do better.

"It's nice winning anyway, but to have something right at that final moment... in front of Blatchy's Blues... I just think that's so cool.

"The first time going back-to-back was important after plenty years of being on the wrong side of those outcomes."

For the full interview visit Talking with TK Podcast