Maloney continues to dominate in Cleary's absence
James Maloney says the tweaking of the side's attacking systems in the absence of star halfback Nathan Cleary has played a big part in the Penrith Panthers' three-game winning streak.
The Panthers sit in second position on the Telstra Premiership ladder after six rounds following their 35-12 win over the Gold Coast Titans, doing so in spite of an ever-growing injury toll.
But it was Maloney's performance on Sunday that proved it doesn't matter who plays around him. The team is being directed by a premiership-winning playmaker.
"That was the first thing we did, come up with a very simple structure that we run over and over again," Maloney said of how the Panthers have dealt with losing the control that Cleary provides.
"That's where I come in, I sat down with the coaches and said this is what we need to do to make it all work.
Match: Panthers vs Titans
Round 6 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium
- Fox League
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''Three guys up the play. It frees me up, I can't spend my time telling every bloke where they need to be. You need guys falling into a rough idea of what we're doing and then tweaking them here or there.
"We spoke about my role and what it would have to be. Together we nutted it out and said how can we get the best of this side in this situation? They've helped with that and we've fallen into a pretty simple system that lets us play footy."
Maloney was as laid-back with his five-star performance as the Panthers were about their 5-1 start to the season – pleased but not satisfied.
Panthers coach Anthony said Maloney's presence was having an effect on the side's control in games.
"When we straightened up and Jimmy got on the front foot a bit more I thought they did a pretty good job," Griffin said.
"Just his leadership, he's running our game. We're frantic early but he's a calming influence on the rest of our side. The more ball we got the simpler our approach came.
"I can only talk about the few months he's been here. He's calm under pressure, got knowledge of the game and experience that he knows how to organise [the] attack, and a kicking game."
The side's healthy record to start the year is their best since 1999. With every win, the team is growing in confidence.
However, their big win over the Titans was overshadowed by a suspected fractured cheekbone to Panthers winger Josh Mansour. The former Australian international copped an accidental knee to the face from opposite number Anthony Don during the second half.
"The boys are really playing for each other now, probably since we've had those injuries no one is making excuses or complaining," Griffin said.
"There's been a real tightness about the team."
Scans are expected to confirm the extent of Mansour's injury on Monday, while Griffin indicated Dallin Watene-Zelezniak could make an early return from a fractured jaw against the Sharks.