Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen says he understands why this weekend's semi-final against Penrith will be viewed as Matt Moylan versus James Maloney but from the team's perspective it was a player swap that simply had to happen and not a case of who got the better end of the deal.
A huge part of the last off-season's player merry-go-round focused on where disgruntled playmakers Moylan and Maloney would finish up; having eventually settled on an effective straight swap between respective clubs, each has had arguably a much better season this year than last in their fresh environs.
They've already faced off once in the regular season (the Sharks edged a 26-22 win back in round seven) but the business end of the season brings greater scrutiny.
"I know the big rivalry this week is between Jimmy and Matty Moylan but at the end of the day it's about whether the team goes out there and executes. That individual battle or battle between the two clubs is irrelevant really," Gallen said on Tuesday.
"There was a lot of hype around in the off season, the reason why Jimmy wanted to leave. And we never found out the reason why Moylan wanted to leave did we?
Moylan versus Maloney showdown
"There's a lot of hype around it and the question all year is 'who's got the better buy', well I've maintained all along, it's a swap that had to happen for both players to play to their potential and do the right thing by their club, they had to leave the respective clubs they were at.
"That's what's happened and here we are playing in a semi-final against each other."
Asked about his own previous stinging assessment of Maloney's 2017 form for Cronulla, in which Gallen declared the premiership-winner was distracted and playing below his best, Gallen reiterated the views but also praised Maloney for his form resurgence this year.
"You could just tell he was distracted all year, Jimmy, whether it be his contract situation, he was doing a lot of work with the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) negotiations, that probably took away from football a little bit," Gallen added.
"You don't need me to tell you that, the proof was in the performances. He's gone to Penrith this year and been unbelievable.
"He's led a young impressionable side into the semi-finals, they were in the top four all year and you saw the difference when he wasn't there in the last few weeks of the season.
"When he came back they hit the ground running, beat Melbourne in Melbourne and won last week against a team that smashed them two weeks ago (in the Warriors). He's a big part of their side. It will be a job for us to stop their go-forward then stop him."
Gallen said the Sharks couldn't afford to fall into the trap of focusing too much on one player and eyed the dynamic Panthers pack as a real point of danger.
"They're really unpredictable. They've obviously got a great forward pack. It seems when they get behind on the scoreboard they start playing ad-lib footy and when those passes stick they're very hard to stop," Gallen said.
"Their forwards have offloads in them, [Josh] Mansour getting their sets started has an offload in him.
"Throw Dallin [Watene-Zelezniak] on top of that, [Tyrone] Peachey, they've got a fair bit of strike.
"It's just about controlling that offload and sticking to our defensive systems. If we have the sort of effort we had last week I think we'll be all right. It's going to tell whether we have a hangover from that game, it's our second six-day turnaround in a row."
Moylan loving life in Cronulla
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