26 Rounds is a little late to this, obviously, but James Maloney has of course won the opportunity to partner Mitchell Pearce in the halves for State of Origin One.
This gives the Roosters three representatives in the first match (with Michael Jennings) and is a well-deserved honour for arguably the Roosters’ best player over the opening 11 rounds.
Laurie Daley gave the following reasoning for going with the BBQ in SMH today:
“What swayed it in James’ favour is the control that Mitchell has been showing at the Roosters this year with James in that team, and he just looks like he provides a calming influence on Mitchell.”
But what also might have helped sway NSW coach Laurie Daley towards Maloney is a particular play in that game.
Rookie Jordan Mclean stormed over under the posts but was held up thanks to some incredible strength from Maloney underneath which epitomised the five-eighth’s toughness and improved defence.
He is still missing a lot of tackles this year: 34 in 11 games at a shade of over three a game.
But he has improved this aspect of his game from a matador showing last year when he missed more than five a match. He’s missed five tackles in a game just twice this season, both wins against the Bulldogs and Sea Eagles.
Credit a better defensive structure and coaching all you want, but the play in holding up Mclean needs to be put down to the player himself, thanks to hard work and a renewed commitment to that side of the ball.
Overall this season, Maloney has seven try assists, six line breaks, four tries and 38 goals including a pressure kick from the sideline against the Storm — following his seventh try assist to the Sheck — which brought the Roosters within six points in a game in which they had no right to be that close with four minutes to go.
No Blues five-eighth has ever won on debut against the Queenslanders, but maloney could be set to buck the trend this year with an established combination with the NSW halfback and NSW left-side centre already established.