James Maloney knows plenty about grand finals and the Cronulla star reckons his halves partner Chad Townsend is primed for the game of his life in the NRL decider against Melbourne.
Townsend bounced back from his week one finals sacking in emphatic style, starring in Friday’s win over premiers North Queensland.
Maloney will play his third decider in six seasons on Sunday and he says Townsend is ready to lead the Sharks to their maiden premiership win.
“He had one game that wasn’t perfect, (but) I don’t think it was as terrible as everyone was saying,” Maloney said.
“We knew he’d been outstanding for us all year so I had every faith he was going to come back and do the job. He’s very important to this side and no doubt he’s got another big 80 in him.”
Maloney said Townsend had shown his character by not letting the hooking by coach Shane Flanagan in their qualifying win over Canberra affect him.
“He was in a good space, I just had a chat to him to make sure he was sweet and he was,” he said.
“I wanted to make sure he realised how important he was to the team and he did.
“He knew that and he knew exactly what he had to do and he came out and did it tremendously against the Cowboys and he’ll come out and do the same next week.”
The Sharks lost 26-6 to Melbourne in a round 26 battle for the minor premiership – on a night Maloney admits the Sharks were not at their best.
“While the scoreline looked pretty convincing I thought we played good footy, we created opportunities, we just didn’t finish them. That hurt us,” he said.
“We probably leaked some points that we probably shouldn’t have but in general the performance was right where we wanted to be to springboard us into the semis.”