James Maloney’s reaction to a "legendary spray" from coach Craig Bellamy during his time at the Storm demonstrates why he's won more NRL games than anyone since 2013.
Maloney, the NSW five-eighth, has belted out the victory song for the Sydney Roosters, Cronulla and Penrith 94 times in the past five seasons.
Storm captain Cameron Smith has won 93 matches in the same period, while five current or former teammates – Jesse Bromwich, Cooper Cronk, Dale Finucane, Tohu Harris and Will Chambers - are in the top 10.
Roosters pair Mitch Aubusson and Jake Friend round out the top 10, along with former North Queensland prop James Tamou, who now plays with Maloney at Penrith.
What makes Maloney’s record so remarkable is he has played for three clubs during that period, winning premierships with the Roosters in 2013 and Sharks in 2016, and steering Penrith to top spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder this season.
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Maloney is one of the most travelled players in the NRL and has enjoyed success wherever he has gone, leading Wentworthville to the 2008 NSW Cup premiership, being 18th man for Melbourne in the 2009 grand final and playing for the Warriors in the 2011 grand final.
"Everywhere he goes he has success," Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said. "I wouldn’t call him a lucky charm, he brings confidence and that breeds confidence in the players around him. As he has got older that has just increased.
"I just think it is his character. He just backs himself and he seems to fear nothing."
That includes the wrath of Bellamy, who is renowned as one of the most intimidating coaches in the NRL.
"He copped a spray off Bellyache that is legendary here," Ponissi said. "It was as good a spray as I have heard from Bellyache, because I have always shared the office next door and back then the walls were paper thin.
"Bellyache didn’t miss him and he went from his office to my office. It was like nothing had happened. Most blokes would be walking with their tail between their legs, rattled and needing me to pick them up.
"He just popped in my office and I said, ‘are you OK’. He said ‘yeah, I’m all right. I deserved that spray’. I hadn’t seen that before and I haven’t seen it since. He is just a unique character."
Warriors assistant coach Tony Iro also recalls Maloney’s laidback attitude when he joined the club in 2010 but said the 31-year-old playmaker readily accepted responsibility for leading a young team, despite having played just four NRL matches.
"I honestly remember in the pre-season when he first joined us, I was thinking ‘holy hell’. He couldn’t make a pass, he was awful, but you put him in a game of footy and he knew what to do," Iro said.
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"He was a competitive bloke and even though he didn’t have a lot of experience he was a good talker. He had to grow up pretty quickly here because he had a lot of kids around him.
"Shaun Johnson was just a kid and we had Kevin Locke out the back so he didn’t have any senior blokes around him but nothing fazad him. It didn’t matter who we were playing, he had the same attitude every weekend.
"When he first came over he never expected to be a premium first-grader. The Warriors were an opportunity, he grabbed it and then realised what sort of impact he could have."
After leading the Warriors to the 2011 grand final against Manly, he joined the Roosters in 2013 and had immediate success as the club triumphed over the Sea Eagles in the premiership decider, while he was the season’s top scorer.
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Maloney enjoyed similar success in his first season at Cronulla, with the Sharks winning the 2016 grand final over Melbourne and the North Sydney Bears junior being named Dally M five-eighth of the year.
"He has an undeniable will to win and a professional irreverence that goes with it," former Cronulla CEO Lyall Gorman said. "He reads the game extraordinary well, he is creative and he puts his body on the line in defence.
"He is a winner, there is no doubt about that. We have seen that success move from club to club with him ... and those sort of things combine to make that happen."
Former Sharks football manager Darren Mooney said: "Some people are just winners and know what it takes to win. He is one of those players. He also has an innate ability to understand where his skill set best fits in a roster that is on the up."
St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor was a member of the NSW coaching staff when Maloney made his Holden State of Origin debut in 2013 and said he had proven himself as one of the leading playmakers over a long period of time.
"He has done a marvellous job over a number of years, he is one of the better game managers of the competition," McGregor said.
"He’s been in grand finals, won grand finals, taken teams to grand finals. He has proven it over a number of years and played at that level comfortably."
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