Leadership inspires Maloney to new heights
Roosters playmaker James Maloney, who was Man of the Match in an impressive win over Brisbane on Saturday night and steered the side around beautifully after halfback Mitch Pearce went off injured early, says the added responsibility brings out the best in him.
Maloney has been huge in the Roosters' two previous wins without Pearce this year, against the Warriors in Auckland and Knights in Newcastle, with stand-in Jackson Hastings performing his role admirably and intelligently in each when brought in for Pearce.
They'll need to fine tune that combination further, with Pearce's hamstring injury set to keep him out until at least the start of the finals and, worst case, until the end of the season.
Maloney said on Monday he had faith Hastings would continue to grow in the role and said the Roosters could keep winning without Pearce if they needed to.
"[I've got] a little bit more responsibility now with however long Pearcey is out. It's something I enjoy," Maloney said.
"It's something I enjoy, having a bit more responsibility. It brings out my best footy. Hopefully I've got a few big games coming up."
Maloney captained the Country Origin side earlier in the year and was Man of the Match in that game as well, and said he found the added pressure of being his team's key playmaker both challenging and exciting.
"It's a little bit of pressure but something I tend to enjoy. It does get the best out of me and gives me a big incentive to play a big game," he said.
"I can't afford to have a quiet game and drift out and let other guys do it [if Pearce is out]. I need to be there amongst it and getting it done, [it's] something I enjoy."
He said his role still wouldn't change too much in Pearce's absence.
Youngster Jackson Hastings – who told NRL.com after the Brisbane game he was ready to step up with Pearce out – will still play a similar role to Pearce, according to Maloney.
"We don't try and change roles too much. Jackson comes in and does Junior's role," Maloney said.
"There is a bit more responsibility which falls on me at different times, [but] my role is pretty similar, that's the way we try and keep it. If we can do that, I suppose the next few weeks we'll get together with Jacko and Robbo [coach Trent Robinson] and have a look at how we want to approach things and just [make sure] we are all on the same page and try and build that combination."
Maloney said Hastings would step up in Pearce's absence and had the faith of all his teammates.
"He'll be fine. He is a very confident kid. He'll back himself to get that done and the boys back him to get it done. He has done a job for us at different stages throughout the season. I can't imagine it being any different," he said.
"He can't be overawed by the situation. I don't think he has been so far."
Maloney said he believed the Roosters could still go all the way this season even if the worst case scenario does arise and Pearce is ruled out for the season.
"There's no reason not to. There's no doubt it makes it more challenging but we've got the guys here, we know that, it's not an excuse to fall away and we won't be falling away now," he said.
"[Hastings] can fill that role and get us around the park and do what he needs to do so there's no reason in the world why not."