Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler is hoping James Maloney’s successful defence over a dangerous contact charge at the NRL judiciary could be the change of luck the Penrith Panthers need to finally kickstart their season.
Maloney has been cleared to face Wests Tigers on Friday night for the NRL’s Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium after fighting a chicken wing tackle on Canberra Raiders backrower John Bateman. Maloney was also charged with a dangerous throw and was looking at a ban if found guilty by the panel.
His suspension would have been another blow for the Panthers who are languishing in 15th spot on the NRL ladder and are battling a tough run following injuries to Viliame Kikau (ankle), Isaah Yeo (shoulder) and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (ribs).
Kikau has already missed the start of the season with a knee problem while other injuries at the club this season have included Dean Whare (hamstring) and Frank Winterstein (knee).
“It seems like ever since 2019 kicked over Penrith have had nothing but bad luck,” Fittler told nswrl.com.au for his Five with Freddy weekly segment.
“Maybe this is their first stroke of good luck. I’m hoping this is a bit of an omen for Penrith and things might turn around from here.”
Maloney and his halves partner at the Panthers, Nathan Cleary, are facing plenty of competition to retain their NSW jumpers with in-form Sydney Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary, South Sydney’s Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds, and Newcastle No.7 Mitchell Pearce all in the mix.
The team for the opening game of the State of Origin series against Queensland at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday 5 June will be announced on Sunday 26 May and Fittler has always maintained that club form will play a part in selection.
“(Maloney) got interviewed and said himself they need to win,” Fittler said.
“It’s nearly as simple as that for Penrith. They’re down on troops, other players have proved you can win without your best players, they just need to get the job done.
“(Nathan) is doing well but once again they need to get it done. I’ve always liked Nathan’s effort areas (but) the thing at the moment is there is some pressure from other players.
“I think the Souths players are doing fantastic, I think Luke Keary is obviously doing very well, Mitchell Pearce’s form over the last couple of weeks has been great.
“They just need to win some games. They’ve had a lot on their minds since the start of the year, they’ve got to get rid of that, get out there and play some footy.”