Cronulla Sharks five-eighth James Maloney salutes the crowd after his side's Preliminary Final win over the Cowboys.

Ironman Maloney Sharks' not-so-secret weapon

It's no secret success follows James Maloney around.

He's just the seventh player ever to play grand finals with three different clubs. In just his seventh full time season, that's an impressive feat in itself.

Since the start of 2011 when he ended up guiding the Warriors to the premiership decider in just his second full season of first grade, Maloney has hardly missed a game.

In that period, he's played more NRL games than any other player, with 154 (Jesse Bromwich is the next best with 151). He's played more finals game than any player in that time, with 16. While Sunday's opponents including Cameron Smith (29 finals matches since 2003) and Cooper Cronk (28 finals from 2004) have more career finals experience, neither has played in as many over the past six seasons.

Since sitting out Round 2 of 2011, Maloney did not miss another club game for the Warriors, Roosters or Sharks other than when he was on Origin duty (and one game rested five days after Origin II in 2013) until given a game off by Shane Flanagan in Round 20 this year. Even that was more of a post-Origin rest than anything.

 

Maloney hasn't played fewer than 24 NRL games in a season since 2009, when he was brought in for four NRL games in his debut year at the Storm.

Told about his five-eighth's impressive durability, Sharks skipper Paul Gallen was surprised but not shocked, describing it as a "fair effort" while delivering a solid back-handed compliment about Maloney's training habits.

"Maloney, well. The pest, he is unbelievable!" Gallen laughed.

"If you're in a video session he mucks around, he doesn't do weights. I've never seen a professional athlete like it. He's just so rat's arse about his preparation then you put him out on the field and he does the job.

"He doesn't miss games. He doesn't do a helluva lot wrong, he puts his body on the line every week. He's flat out weighing 80 kilos so that's a fair effort."

While Gallen was taken aback by Maloney's games record, he was effusive about the 30-year-old's on-field success over his career.

"You send him over to the Warriors, he got into a grand final. You send him to the Roosters, he won one [premiership] and three minor premierships. He's come here this year and we're in a grand final," Gallen said.

"He's a special player."

 


In typical Maloney fashion, the man himself laughed off his durability.

"It's probably my big frame – It's hard to buckle a lot of muscle!" he laughed.

"I take the knocks pretty well and I try to stay out of the big fellas' way as best I can.

"The only real [injury] I had was when I went down to Parramatta, I did the ankle and missed the whole year down there. Since then, touch wood, I've been pretty lucky."

On Sunday, Maloney joins Glenn Lazarus (who won five premierships with Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne); Phil Sigsworth (who lost three grand finals with Newtown 1981, Manly in 1983 and Canterbury in 1986), Kevin Campion (St George 1996, Brisbane 1998 and 2000 wins, Warriors 2002); Joe Galuvao (Penrith 2003, Parramatta 2009, Manly 2011 – two wins); Krisnan Inu (Eels 2009, Warriors 2011, Canterbury 2012 – all losses); and – technically – Anthony Mundine (St George 1996, Brisbane Super League 1997, St George Illawarra 1999, one win) to have contested grand finals with three different clubs.

The incomparable Lazarus's record of premierships at three different clubs remains a rugby league record in no sight of being broken any time soon, however.

 

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