James Maloney of the Sharks.
James Maloney of the Sharks. PAUL MILLER

Rival clubs circling in-form Sharks playmaker

IT should come as no surprise there's plenty of interest from rival NRL clubs in Cronulla star James Maloney.

The NSW playmaker has heard the whispers too.

There's only one problem. He's not off-contract.

But with interest at a premium, Maloney has revealed his management will seek clarity from Cronulla on its position to upgrade and extend the No.6's tenure.

"There's been so much talk about it (my contract)," Maloney said.

"I've got another year. I'm talking with Cronulla just trying to find out beyond that where they stand.

"We'll go through that. At the moment I'm a Shark and I've got another 12 months there."

After leaving the Roosters - where he won a title in 2013 - for Cronulla last year, Maloney has established himself as one of the best halves in the game.

Another premiership, a Test debut for Australia and a sustained selection in the Blues side later and the 30-year-old is in his prime.

While Maloney has another year to run on his Sharks deal, with a shortage of veteran playmakers off-contract and several clubs desperately searching for one, Maloney's future has been a hot topic among recruitment officers in recent weeks.

When told he's in demand, the often comical Maloney replied: "You'd hope so. I'm playing for my state, my country. You'd hope I could get a gig somewhere.

"I don't know but as I said I've got another 12 months at Cronulla and if things change beyond that I suppose then there will be something to talk about but at the moment that's where I sit, I've got 12 months to go and I'm ready to go."

In a bid to ease the concern of Sharks fans that he could be set for a premature exit, he said: "At the moment I'm not (leaving). As I said, I'm happy at Cronulla, I'm enjoying my football there, I love the club."

For now, his future is the least of his concerns. His main focus is on winning the first Origin next Wednesday.

To make that dream a reality he'll need his halves combination firing but fortunately for him, he's never seen his partner, Mitchell Pearce, in better form.

Having spent three years playing alongside the halfback at club and Origin level, Maloney believes Pearce is as confident as ever.


James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce during the announcement of the NSW Blues State of Origin team.
James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce during the announcement of the NSW Blues State of Origin team. CRAIG GOLDING

Forget the light-bulb moment, for Pearce the glass has been shattered.

That's part of the reason Maloney's so eager to reignite the combination with his old teammate and close friend.

"He's probably in the best form of his career," Maloney said.

"He looks really mature ... there's just a real calmness in key moments which comes through the older you get the more mature you get and things like that.

"You see this year he's come up with some big plays to ice games for the Roosters and he's done it time and time again this year.

"I think that's probably the biggest difference and I suppose people that have been critical of him in the past it's probably been for that so I think he's as [well] placed as ever to come in and shine at this level."

After the year from hell in 2016, everything has clicked for the Roosters playmaker and the burden he's carried with him since making his Origin debut as a 19-year-old appears to have finally vanished.

After putting the Australia Day drama behind him, which led to him spending time in a Thai rehabilitation facility, Pearce finished the season off strongly and came out firing this year.

During Pearce's rough patch Maloney kept in touch. That's what good mates do. Now back in the Blues' No.7 after missing last year's series, Maloney is backing the 28-year-old to stick it to his detractors.

"I was stoked to see him get the call-up because how hard he works, he's been through a lot," Maloney said.

"He's had a few indiscretion sorts of things that have probably - people have their own opinions of - but in this arena in the past I think he's shouldered a lot of blame that wasn't always on him.

"It's a credit to him he never tries to palm it off, he accepts it, it is what it is and moves on and comes out bigger and better. I can't wait for him to go out and hopefully get a series win and be able to give it to all the critics."

News Corp Australia

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