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Fittler pays tribute to "crucial" character Maloney

Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler will never forget the year when he sent an SOS to James Maloney for Game Two of the 2019 State of Origin series.

Fittler had overlooked Maloney for Game One which the Blues lost 18-14 in Brisbane and needed him to come in for Game Two in Perth to save the series.

“Hey Freddy, did you lose my number?” Maloney boomed after walking into camp.

The livewire five-eighth, who announced today he would be retiring at the end of the season, went on to play a key role after halfback Nathan Cleary left the field injured.

He set up two tries and a line break assist, kicked for 310 metres, forced two drop outs and booted five goals to help the Blues to a commanding 38-6 victory.

“He was crucial and to have someone in your team who can move on from anything at that high level is imperative,” Fittler told nswrl.com.au.

“He was our man and he just kept everyone thinking forward, not backwards. He also went away and had the tenacity to come back and play a big part.”

Maloney, who is still plying his trade for competition front runners Catalans Dragons in Super League, announced via social media he would retire at the end of the season.

The 35-year-old played 14 games for NSW and was part of Blues teams that won back-to-back series in 2018/19, three games for Australia, and 249 NRL games for five different clubs including premiership wins at the Sydney Roosters in 2013 and Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in 2016.

“The time has come to hang up the boots from professional footy," Maloney said. “It’s been one hell of a ride and I’ve loved every minute of it.

“Thanks to everyone who has played a part in my career along the way, most importantly my beautiful wife Jess Maloney who has been there from the start. Now to finish on a great note.

“I’ve had a lot of fun and been very fortunate to have a long career that has given me and my family so many opportunities.

“I’m very grateful to the Dragons for the opportunity to come and play over here and for how they have looked after me and the family in difficult circumstances with everything going on in the world, and I hope that I can repay that by finishing this season lifting the trophy.”

Fittler said he always admired Maloney’s ability to put setbacks behind him on the field and get on with the job.

“People like him who can be light, but also play whole-heartedly…there’s not many of them,” Fittler said.

“Apart from his mindset, he was a great goal-kicker, kicked under pressure really well and had plenty of footy in him.

“There were more strings to his bow than just having a strong mentality.

“He was good to have around the group, a bit loud and great personality. Every team’s got character and whoever he played for he made up the bulk of it.”