JAMES Maloney has finally confirmed his part in the $6 million Matt Moylan swap deal, giving a candid interview about the reasons behind his move to Penrith.
The Kangaroos star has long been expected to leave Cronulla in the off-season after he raised concerns over his salary way back in June, setting in motion a seemingly endless string of reports linking him to other clubs.
But Maloney revealed his future had been uncertain right up until last week, with the Sharks making him wait until they had Moylan’s signature before granting him a release.
While Cronulla announced the Moylan deal last week, the Panthers are yet to confirm Maloney’s signing, with the representative five-eighth admitting there was still some minor chinks in the contract to be ironed out before he could sign on the dotted line.
“I think they’re just trying to pass a third party or something. The contract’s not quite sorted yet, so when it is I can sign on that line,” Maloney said.
Once the formalities are agreed to Maloney will face the reality of a fresh start with a fifth NRL club, a house hunt out west — “it’s a long way to travel from Maroubra, so yeah, I’ll have to go out there” — and the sadness of leaving a group of close mates he’s won a premiership with.
In return he’ll get the security of a long-term deal that will keep him in the game until he’s 35, a handsome pay rise, and the excitement of taking a team packed full of potential to the next level.
“I’m better off financially, that is a thing, but obviously I get a bit of security with an extra three years,” Maloney said.
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“And obviously at the end of the day it was Cronulla’s call, I couldn’t have left unless they granted the release, so you know, they wanted to head in that direction and as I said I’m happy with the move because I’m excited about it.”
Maloney said he hadn’t had a proper chance to say goodbye to his Cronulla teammates, with his focus on Australia’s World Cup campaign and getting his new deal across the line.
However, the worst kept secret in rugby league hasn’t been missed in the Shire and Maloney said he was getting plenty of text messages.
“I spoke to a few of the boys, a few of the boys on the WhatsApp and that messaged me and I’ve spoke to a few of them,” Maloney said.
“I haven’t actually got a chance to sort of tell them officially but obviously they’ve all sort of read about it and I’ve touched base with quite a few of them, so you know, it’s disappointing.
“Obviously I’ve got some really good mates there and we’ll stay in contact with a lot of them because obviously around the premiership and things like that, we’ll no doubt catch up for a long time to come.
“Hopefully they continue to have success, I enjoyed my time at the club and hopefully the Penrith Panthers as well can get a bit over the next couple of years.”
Maloney has a habit of sprinkling magic dust on a club and taking them to the next level, so Panthers fans have every reason to be excited about a player who took the Roosters and Sharks to titles in his first year at each club.
For his part, Maloney sees plenty of similarities between the Panthers side he will join in pre-season and the Sharks of 2016, which adds to the excitement of the move.
“As I said, the move, the roster and that reminds me a lot of the reasons I went to play for Cronulla,” Maloney said.
“A really good solid forward pack to play behind and quite a bit of experience and some really exciting backs and young kids coming through, so it is exciting and hopefully it’s a new challenge and that keeps you on your toes.”
Then there’s Cleary, the most exciting young half in the competition, who Maloney hopes to form a formidable combination with.
At just 19, and less than two years into his career, the mark of the teenage prodigy is that a player of Maloney’s stature is going to Penrith not just to teach but to learn.
“I don’t know, he might teach me things, I’m not sure,” Maloney offered when asked what he could teach Cleary.
“I suppose we’ll work that out once I get out there and spend some time and have a chat to him and find out how he looks at footy.
“I suppose that’s a challenge of coming into a new side, is to get to know the guys who are there and how they like to play and fitting in around that.”