Maloney in sights of star Raiders pair

The NRL’s greatest attacking unit of Canberra duo Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana have the game’s most lacklustre defender in their sights.

Raiders centre Leilua and his winger Rapana’s right side attack have been key to the club’s charge to second spot on the NRL ladder.

Rapana leads the NRL in linebreaks with 24, while Leilua leads the competition with offloads (65).

And Sharks playmaker James Maloney, who has missed more tackles than any other player this year, has the task of keeping the barnstorming pair quiet in Saturday’s qualifying final.

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan backed his representative five-eighth to rise to the occasion despite missing 99 tackles during the regular season.

“You don’t play in grand finals and State of Origin and win minor premierships for a long period of time if you can’t play,” Flanagan said.

“So James Maloney is one of those players we are expecting big things from on Saturday.

“Players like that come into their own at this time of the year.”

However Flanagan conceded Leilua and Rapana would take some stopping.

“They have been quality,” he said.

“They are both big strong men, they have an offload and can carry the football.

“We need to be really tidy around them.”

Flanagan said the return of centre Ricky Leutele from injury was a boost for the Sharks left side defence.

“With Ricky Leutele coming back in it is great for us,” he said.

“He has really good footwork and has played well on that side of the field in previous games (against Canberra).

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