In-form James Maloney can demand NSW Origin selection with a big performance for Country in Tamworth, with City coach Brad Fittler declaring stopping the Cronulla playmaker the key to victory.
With his opposition for a Blues halves spot failing to demand selection and Mitchell Pearce electing to bypass State of Origin as he continues his rehabilitation, Maloney has a golden chance on Sunday to press his claims for an Origin recall.
Maloney is one of the frontrunners for a NSW playmaking spot, alongside South Sydney’s Adam Reynolds and Newcastle’s Trent Hodkinson, but is the only one to elect to play in the fixture.
“He’s going great. His running game is the best part of what he’s doing at the moment,” Fittler said.
“He’s going to be really hard to contain tomorrow. He had a great game last year and if you stood back and had a look he was probably the best player out there.”
Maloney was reportedly pencilled in by Blues coach Daley to partner former Sydney Roosters teammate Pearce in the halves because of their pre-existing combination.
However, Pearce’s decision to not seek Origin selection seemingly put a spanner in the works.
But Fittler and County counterpart Craig Fitzgibbon said that shouldn’t count against Maloney at the selection table.
The former Roosters premiership-winner ticks the boxes Daley likes in an Origin player; he has big-game experience and has shown sustained form after moving to Cronulla in 2016.
“He’s playing pretty well,” Fitzgibbon said.
“I don’t know if Pearcey being out has anything to do with Jimmy being selected.
“Jimmy’s definitely in line for one of those positions and he’s acutely aware of that, too.”