Origin could come down to kicking

NSW five-eighth James Maloney says he expects Wednesday's State of Origin decider to come down to goal-kicking.

JAMES MALONEY of the Panthers lines up for a conversion during the NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Penrith Panthers at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, Australia.
JAMES MALONEY of the Panthers lines up for a conversion during the NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Penrith Panthers at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, Australia. Picture: Ashley Feder/Getty Images

James Maloney's goal-kicking practice in the lead up to the State of Origin decider consisted of taking a few shots after the side's captain's run.

Despite his laidback approach, he predicts Wednesday's game three is likely to be decided by just a few points and he and his Queensland opposite will play a big hand.

After Kalyn Ponga and Nathan Cleary were ruled out because of injury, both sides will be forced to field second-string kickers at ANZ Stadium.

Maroons skipper Daly Cherry-Evans appeared to be the likely candidate to take over the duties from Ponga, however winger Dane Gagai has been the one doing all the kicking during training in the build up.

This is despite the South Sydney flyer having kicked just 10 goals from 17 attempts during his NRL career - including seven from nine in 2019.

Maloney has served as back-up to Cleary throughout his time at the Panthers, but boasts an 81 per cent career strike rate and has booted 13 from 14 for the Panthers and Blues this year.

"I haven't done too much. I'll knock a few over after training but I've done it long enough, I never go too long without doing any. It'll be sweet," Maloney said.

While the period since 2006 has been labelled Queensland's era of dominance, having won 11 of 13 series, the fact remains it has often gone down to the wire and kicking has been a deciding factor in the wash up.

In 10 of those 11 series victories, Queensland have won one game by six points or less .

"It's always important, two points is always valuable," Maloney said.

"I've been a part of series where we've lost by two points and it's been on goal-kicking.

"Every point counts. It's a responsibility you've got to make sure they go over."


AAP