The experienced five-eighth has taken Fittler’s words on board. (Brett Costello)
The experienced five-eighth has taken Fittler’s words on board. (Brett Costello)

Maloney still sweet with Fittler

PENRITH five-eighth James Maloney has denied there is any tension between him and New South Wales coach Brad Fittler.

The new Blues boss had phoned Maloney to talk about his defensive deficiencies but Maloney says he wasn't offended by the frank assessment handed down by the former league great.

"I spoke to him earlier on. We're sweet," he said.

"We had conversations about things in my game and chats about that ... spoke to him and got a bit out of it and just spoke about general stuff and I thought he was on the money.

"There has been stuff that we spoke about that I have been trying to work on."

Maloney revealed Fittler wanted him to shift to a 'defence first' mindset in a bid to get the most out of his game, especially in the Origin arena.

"Mainly defensive stuff. He said he feels I play my best footy when I have a defensive mindset, Maloney said.

"I think that's 100 per cent true. That's always been my approach … the bigger the game the more defensive my mindset has sort of been. It's no real shock to me."

What has been somewhat of a shock for the experienced playmaker is the criticism levelled at him over the past few weeks.

Maloney has long been panned for his defensive lapses and discipline but admitted this time around he was "taken aback" by it all.

"I can't control what people think and their opinions," he said.

"All I can do is try to work on that. The defensive side for any half ... it's a constant battle, it's something you have to work on and it's something that I'm always doing and those guys will have their own opinions. If they think I deserve to be there they'll pick me."

Maloney has been through all of NSW’s pain. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Maloney has been through all of NSW’s pain. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

After more than a decade of Origin heartache, Fittler has indicated he is preparing to clear the slate for the 2018 series and will be announcing a new-look side on Monday.

It has left the likes of Aaron Woods, Boyd Cordner, Josh Jackson and Maloney in jeopardy of losing their sky blue jumpers.

But Maloney is philosophical about Fittler's approach saying the incumbent side could not begrudge their omission from game one considering they lost last year's series.

"Incumbency is not such an issue when you didn't get the job done," he said.

"If we'd been there and won then you'd probably got more entitled to say 'I'm the incumbent' but that hasn't been the case.

"So I think form is what you go off on the back of that.

"The only thing you get out of being the incumbent is that they know what you can do that in arena."

Maloney isn’t the type to get caught in the negatives. (Phil Hillyard)
Maloney isn’t the type to get caught in the negatives. (Phil Hillyard)

Maloney will have one last audition in front of selectors on Saturday when the Panthers take on St George-Illawarra in the game of the round.

The top of the table clash is also a chance for Dragons halfback Ben Hunt to make one final claim for Queensland selection.

But Maloney insisted the match-up isn't an Origin duel since NSW selectors had already settled on side for game one.

"I don't look it at like that. My job is to get one over Ben Hunt so the Panthers win. "I'd be surprised from an Origin perspective if they didn't already know the side they were going in with. I don't think it's something to prove there."

Maloney also says he is in the dark about whether or not Fittler would read out his name on Monday when the team is selected but he was sure he was up to the job of steering NSW around the park.

"I have no doubt what so ever. I have been happy with the way I have been playing. Always things to work on and I'll continue to do that but I have no doubt I'm in good shape if I get the opportunity," he said.

"Freddie has come in to do a job and he will be judged on the results he gets. So he's going to have the side he wants and that how it's always going to work."

 

LIVE stream every game of every round of the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership on FOX SPORTS. Get your free two-week Foxtel Now trial and start watching in minutes. SIGN UP NOW >