James Maloney was once considered a matador in defence, but the BBQ has turned the heat up enough in defence near the line which — when combined with his superb attacking play — has him firmly in front for the up-for-grabs NSW number six jersey.
According to an article in The Australian over the weekend:
According to Sportsdata, Maloney has improved his tackling efficiency by nearly 10 per cent and been at fault for only one try this season. Cronulla and NSW incumbent five-eighth Todd Carney has been at fault for two, even though he has played two fewer games.
He still misses his fair share of tackles, but has made them when they count. This season he’s missed 24 tackles at three per game, which isn’t a great statistic by any measure, but compared to last year when he had an amazing 122 tackles in 24 games for the Warriors, at a massive 5.1 per match, he’s like Les Boyd.
However, you don’t need statistics to prove how much he’s improved in this area under Trent Robinson; just watching his cover of Brett Morris on ANZAC Day is enough to show you his dedication to making the tackle when it counts.
This year he’s already held off the likes of Josh Papalii and Tony Williams. He’s coming up against Anthony Watmough, Tariq Sims and Kevin Proctor in the next three weeks, and so far he’s shown he’s capable enough to handle the task.
But while at least one article has been written about Maloney’s improved defence, literally nothing has been said about the incredible leap defensively fellow off-season recruit Michael Jennings has made this year.
In 2012, a year when Jenko was dropped to reserve grade, the classy three-quarter missed 62 tackles in just 17 games at an average of 3.6 a match.
In 2013? He has missed just two tackles all season. Not a misprint.
That’s a remarkable average of just 0.25 missed tackles a match. And when you factor in the amount of tackling he’s actually done — 123 for an average of 15.4 per match — the fact he has missed just two all season is even more remarkable.
He’s making 61.5 tackles for every miss. Incredible.
Jenko was handed a favour when Justin Hodges was ruled out in round three, and he’s yet to come up against someone the class of Jamie Lyon — who he’ll face this week. But he has come up against some decent attacking centres and more than held his own.
Both the BBQ and Jenko could possibly have been weak links this year, but have been integral cogs of the best defensive machine in the NRL.