Maloney expects Origin intensity in Pearce v Cronk battle
James Maloney expects NSW teammate Mitchell Pearce to go the extra mile in a bid to get one up over his former club when he returns to Allianz Stadium for the first time in opposition colours.
No stranger to taking on former sides after stints with the Sydney Roosters, Cronulla Sharks, Melbourne Storm and Warriors, he believes Pearce and Newcastle Knights teammates Connor Watson, Aidan Guerra and Shaun Kenny-Dowall will be out to prove a point against their old club, the Sydney Roosters.
The exit of Pearce, in particular, left Roosters fans with mixed opinions over the treatment of their long-serving players as he made way for Australian international Cooper Cronk after 12 seasons in the red, white and blue.
"He'll be looking forward to it, of course you would," Maloney said of Pearce lining up against his old club.
"I'm stoked to see him going so well up there. I thought it would be good for him when he did and he looks like he's really enjoying his footy. Mitch is a terrific player, he always has been. It will be an interesting battle.
"I don't think he'll get too personal about it. It's not just Mitch, there's a heap of them. They've probably got a bit to prove. They've been let go and will want to come back and have a crack at them."
Pearce has distanced himself from the battle with Cronk, but has openly spoken about the prospect of lining up against the Roosters for a career-first.
Cronk has a dominant record over the Knights halfback with a 9-3 head-to-head record at club level to go with a 10-4 advantage in Holden State of Origin appearances.
"Cooper Cronk has got nothing to prove on his end, he's one of the greatest halfbacks in the modern era and probably of all time, and I've got nothing but upmost respect for Cooper," Pearce said.
"Everyone knows what a good player he is and more importantly as a team we've got to stop him.
"It's a good test for the young emerging team that we are and we'll see where we're at. They've got a great team, they're premiership favourites and rightly so."
Pearce said the combinations within the Knights spine was growing on a weekly basis, none more so than the No.7's partnership with exciting prospect Kalyn Ponga.
Pearce and Ponga are second behind Penrith Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary for the Dally M medal after man-of-the-match performances in the opening two rounds.
"I feel the systems Browny (Nathan Brown) has put in place are allowing us to play our best footy which suits every individual and we saw that last week," Pearce said.
"But footy is about backing it up and we've got to play well again this week."
The Knights received a double boost earlier in the week with Mitchell Barnett and Jamie Buhrer (both head knocks) set to play.