Sharks’ Maloney to join rare NRL club

Cronulla star James Maloney is on track to become just the fourth player in history to claim four straight minor premierships over two different clubs.

After helping the Sydney Roosters become the first club to claim a minor premiership hat-trick, Maloney’s move to the Sharks has coincided with their push towards a maiden NRL title.

And with just six rounds remaining, the current ladder leaders are on the verge of making Maloney the first player in over 40 years to achieve the feat four times in a row.

Should Cronulla hold their spot at the top of the table, he’ll join Brian `Poppa’ Clay (Newtown and St George), Bob Moses (South Sydney and Manly), and Burnie Purcell (Western Suburbs and South Sydney).

Clay was part of seven straight minor premierships from 1954-60, while Moses claimed six from 1968-73 inclusive.

Retiring Newcastle forward Jeremy Smith was part of Melbourne and St George-Illawarra’s campaigns to lift the J.J. Giltinan shield, however the Storm were stripped of their minor premierships between 2006-08.

Sharks centre Jack Bird said Maloney’s arrival in the Shire, combined with their push towards the NRL summit was far from a coincidence.

“You can just see where he took the Roosters in the last few years. As soon as he comes here we’re coming first. It’s no fluke,” he said.

“You all know what he can do. He’s a great player and brings a lot to this team.

“Obviously we missed his goalkicking here on the weekend – we missed every goal (against Newcastle). He brings a lot of composure around the boys and that winning feeling.”

Maloney is expected to return for Monday’s clash against Gold Coast after overcoming a groin strain that forced him to miss last week’s win over Newcastle.

He joins the rest of the Sharks’ Origin contingent, including Wade Graham, Andrew Fifita, Bird and Paul Gallen, who have been given time off following the gruelling representative campaign.

Graham said he was appreciative of the opportunity to reboot.

“It’s a long 26 weeks. It’s hard on the body and it’s hard on the head,” he said.

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