BLUES IN REVIEW | James Maloney
He returned to the Origin frame after a two-year exodus and at 30 years old, James Maloney proved he still has what it takes to play a part in the big games.
Maloney, who partnered Mitchell Pearce in the VB Blues' narrow 2-1 series defeat in 2013, had since been overlooked, but some stellar form for new club the Cronulla Sharks earned him selection again this year. Picked at five-eighth alongside Adam Reynolds, Maloney took little time to prove his selection worthwhile; he set up Boyd Corner for the VB Blues' only try in the 25th minute. With 17 tackles, Maloney wasn't found out in defence either, making a superb one-on-one tackle against Dane Gagai to prevent a Queensland try.
The second game was an up-and-down affair for the three-time Grand Finalist; he ran a game-high 167 metres thanks to a 90-metre intercept try when the team needed it most, but also had some errors in handling and discipline. New South Wales couldn't salvage the series in that encounter, but Maloney turned it around in Game III with a man-of-the-match performance to prevent a Queensland cleansweep. Named at halfback for the first time in the sky blue, Maloney took the reins in the absence of Reynolds and proved a dynamic partner alongside Matt Moylan. With a line-break to his name, he looked especially dangerous when running the football and continued his good form all the way to the Sharks' drought-breaking premiership in October.
Overall, Maloney was fourth in all run metres and second in tackle-breaks for the Blues and his involvement in premiership and Four Nations victories will help his chances of re-selection next year.
Origins: 6 (2013 and 2016)
2016 Matches: 3 (Game I, II and III)
Total Running Metres: 8