Success has followed James Maloney to every club he has played. He took the Warriors to a Grand Final in 2011, the Roosters to a Premiership in 2013 and was part of the Cronulla Sharks maiden Premiership in 2016.
A NSW Origin and Australian representative with two Premiership rings, not bad for a player that couldn't get a start with Parramatta and could only manage to get four games with the Melbourne Storm early in his career.
At 31 and with 205 games under his belt, Maloney has made a move to another club. The Penrith Panthers will hope he brings success to a team expected to be a contender in 2018.
Maloney will be linking up with young halfback Nathan Cleary and it is their partnership in the halves that much is expected for the Panthers to fulfil their potential.
The Panthers in 2017 were many experts tip to take out the Premiership. After a slow start, the Panthers came back strongly to force a place in the top 8. Unfortunately, in the finals, their campaign was ended way short of expectations.
A mix of injuries and off-field distractions can be used as an excuse for the disappointing season. However, it looked from the outside there was an issue between coach and players. With the exit of twp of the Panthers best players, local juniors Matt Moylan and Bryce Cartwright, it would suggest all is not well within the Panthers set up.
Coach Anthony Griffin is said to be under enormous pressure. Reports out of Penrith is that former coaching great and current GM Phil Gould is getting more hands-on and attending training sessions suggesting confidence in the man they call Hook has waned.
With Maloney coming to Panthers from the Sharks, he takes over at five-eighth replacing fan favourite Matt Moylan. Anything other than immediate success will have fans questioning why the club took the direction, in effect swapping Moylan for Maloney.
James Maloney is a character and a bit of a larrikin. It will be interesting to see how his personality mixes with complete introvert Anthony Griffin. Maloney can also be guilty of giving away penalties during games. How Griffin controls Maloney and his player's discipline on and off the field will be a major factor if Penrith is to be a serious contender in 2018. A slow start to the season will be the end of Griffin's term as Penrith coach.
If Griffin was to be moved on, Penrith fans would have to start questioning Phil Gould's plans for the club. A clean out of players over the years including many local juniors will not sit well. The sacking of Ivan Cleary as the coach to accommodate Griffin must already be puzzling given Cleary been appointed Wests Tigers head coach. However, moving Griffin on might be the best move to get the best out of the playing group.
Whatever happens to the coaching position it needs to be sorted out early in the season. Penrith has a good roster and James Maloney will be a key man to ensure that they push to be Premiership contenders in 2018. Maloney will carry expectations of the Penrith fans to be as influential as Matt Moylan had been. If Maloney is not at his best, Penrith will not be a top 8 team.
As said, James Maloney has had success wherever he has played. Penrith is a team on the rise. His play should compliment the playing group at the Panthers. However, I have a concern that he will not gel with coach Anthony Griffin. Was his signing more influenced by Gould than Griffin?
Can Maloney bring his successful nature to the Panthers and take them from pretenders to contenders?