James Maloney is the Penrith Panthers most decorated signing since Petero Civinoceva joined the club a decade ago.
Maloney’s influence on a rugby league game is unquestionable, the record speaks for itself with a win percentage above 60% every season since he joined the Sydney Roosters from the New Zealand Warriors back in 2013. This is why the western Sydney club wanted the services of Maloney at the backend of his career.
There’s no doubt the partnership between young gun Nathan Cleary and Maloney will blossom throughout 2018. Dylan Edwards at fullback has settled into the side after a successful rookie season and will fit perfectly into the Cleary-Maloney partnership.
Where Penrith may struggle with their spine is at hooker. Peter Wallace is a local junior, immensely experienced having played 230 National Rugby League games for both the Panthers and Broncos. The thirty-two year old is also off contract at the end of 2018.
The Panthers may have missed an opportunity to lock in a long-term contract for Gold Coast bound Mitch Rein. Rein was more than effective in his five appearances this season, winning all but one game whilst deputising at hooker. It felt that the attack was dangerous with his all-round play making from dummy half. Granted a different type of player from Wallace but gave the attack the punch it needed through the Panthers purple patch mid-season.
Any injury to Wallace during 2018 will provide coach Anthony Griffin with a selection headache. Will this mean shifting Tyrone Peachey to dummy half, or will the very talented but inexperienced Wayde Egan be thrown in at the deep end?
It might have been a wiser decision to retain Rein.