NSW skipper Paul Gallen has challenged his Cronulla teammate James Maloney to continue to lift his game as he bids for a return to the State of Origin arena.
Maloney has emerged as the Blues’ leading playmaker over the first seven rounds of the NRL, piloting the Sharks to a equal second on the competition ladder.
The 29-year-old played all three games for NSW in their 2013 series loss but hasn’t been a part of coach Laurie Daley’s Blues side since.
“He is playing the sort of footy that can get him that role,” Gallen said at Sharks training on Wednesday.
“He just has to keep putting his best foot forward and if he fits the mold of the side, he will be there.
“It is up to Maloney and up to all the halves to put their best foot forward and there is no doubt Jimmy is doing that at the moment. He needs to keep doing that.”
Gallen was reluctant to push too hard for Maloney’s selection.
“I stay right out of the selection I turn up to these things (press conferences) and don’t want to talk about it that will be my business in six weeks or so,” he said.
Maloney has been crucial in the Sharks’ current four-game winning streak, while his rivals for a Blues halves spot such as Josh Reynolds and Blake Austin have struggled.
Incumbent Blues No.6 Mitchell Pearce is yet to play a game this year due to his ban for an off-field discretion.