Having been there before, James Maloney is acutely aware of the blowtorch that will be applied on him and his new NSW halves partner Adam Reynolds in the State of Origin opener, on and off the park.
Maloney and his then-NSW halves partner Mitchell Pearce bore the brunt of criticism in the wake of the Blues’ 2013 series loss.
The Cronulla playmaker returns to Origin for the first time since in next Wednesday’s game one at ANZ Stadium. They are the Blues’ 18th halves pairing since Queensland began their unprecedented period of interstate dominance in 2006.
Maloney says his previous experience of Origin has steeled him for what lies ahead.
“It is part and parcel of being in the halves,” Maloney said on Wednesday from the Blues’ training base in Coffs Harbour.
“I was saying to Adam we need to play to our strengths; we need to play how we want because we are the ones who are going to get hammered if we lose. That’s just the way it is.”
Blues coach Laurie Daley has moved to expedite the understanding between Maloney and Reynolds, who have never played together before, and rookie Blues fullback Matt Moylan, by rooming the trio together.
“We have been rooming together – most of the spine in one room helps; we have had a bit of fun together already,” Reynolds said.
“Jimmy has been there and done it before, he knows what it is about and he has shared some of that. It is good getting that from other players.
South Sydney premiership winner Reynolds said he would deal with the pressure “the same way I do every week”.
“I have been through this before with all the media commitments and the hype. It is very similar to the pressure … same as the grand final”.
NSW trained fully for the first time together on Wednesday afternoon. Canterbury centre Josh Morris trained as a stand-in fullback on the Blues’ left side and was later released by Daley, alongside St George Illawarra back-rower Tyson Frizell to play this weekend for their respective club sides.
Maloney is desperate to make the most of his second chance at Origin because he thought he would never get the opportunity again.
“I never thought I would play again so I was that happy when I got the call and told I was going to get another chance,” Maloney said.
“I tried not to think too much about it but I honestly didn’t think it was going to come around.
“Now the focus is to get the job done. We fell a little bit short last time I was here and, to get the opportunity to change that result, is fantastic.”
NSW lost the 2013 decider in Sydney 12-10. Maloney said he would be better for the experience this time around.
“I come in knowing what to expect, knowing what lies ahead and that puts me in a better frame of mind,” he said.
“I am a little bit more experienced. I have learnt a lot more about footy over the past few years. I am probably in the best position I could be in coming out of a good club side with winning form. All that adds up to helping me in this situation.”