Maloney puts hand up for NSW Blues spot

Former NSW five-eighth James Maloney will face off against current No.6 Cody Walker when Penrith face South Sydney in the NRL next week.

james maloney of the sharks runs the ball during the 2016 nrl grand final match between the cronulla sharks and the melbourne storm at anz stadium in sydney australia
JAMES MALONEY of the Sharks runs the ball during the 2016 NRL Grand Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The NSW five-eighth spot for State of Origin II could come down to an 80-minute showdown between veteran James Maloney and rookie Cody Walker.

It's a scenario likely to play out for Blues coach Brad Fittler as he watches the final round of NRL games before announcing his team for game two in Perth.

Maloney staked a claim for a recall after setting up three tries in Penrith's upset of the Sydney Roosters on Sunday - the club's third win in a row.

"I wanted to play at the start of the series, no doubt," Maloney said.

"But then ever since I was overlooked my whole focus went to putting together a really strong Origin period when other sides are out of sorts, taking control of Penrith here, and having a really good period so we can play finals football."

In a twist of fate, Maloney's next task will be against Walker and South Sydney, who are coming off a loss to Newcastle without their rested No.6 on Saturday.

Earlier that night, another contender, Mitchell Pearce, faces off against Queensland star Cameron Munster when the Knights meet Melbourne.

Maloney, who has played in 12 Origin games and turns 33 on Saturday, said Walker would have learned plenty after his controversial debut in game one.

"It's a different game, you've got to be ready for that arena. But I think Cody would be better for the run. He would've learned a lot out of it," Maloney said.

"Whatever happens, happens. I've said all along, I've never had a doubt that if I was picked, I can do the job. But it's out of my control."

Maloney was widely credited for the Blues' breakthrough series triumph last year, when he was the senior playmaker alongside then-rookie Nathan Cleary.

But he lost his spot for game one after the Panthers' poor start to the season.

"I don't think I was playing horrible footy," he said.

"As a side we weren't going well. Personally, I don't think I was at my best, but I don't think I was the worst I ever played either."


AAP