BY CURTIS WOODWARD
He has won premierships at Cronulla and the Sydney Roosters, represented Australia and New South Wales but now 33-year-old Penrith five-eigth James Maloney admits it is time to say au revoir to the National Rugby League after agreeing to join French club Catalans Dragons from 2020.
The larrikin Orange-native had a year to run on his contract at the Panthers but the club was never going to stand in Maloney’s way such is his standing within the organisation.
Maloney has agreed to a three-year deal with the Perpignan franchise.
Penrith will now set their sights on sending the incumbent New South Wales playmaker out as a Panthers premiership-player.
It’s an NRL career that has spanned two countries, two states and five clubs starting with the Melbourne Storm as understudy to Cooper Cronk in 2009. His big break would come at the New Zealand Warriors where he formed a lethal combination with Kiwi superstar Shaun Johnson. The Warriors qualified for the 2011 decider but couldn’t topple Manly in the grand final.
A shift back to Sydney on compassionate grounds saw him link with the powerhouse Sydney Roosters. They won the title in his first season at Bondi in 2013.
Maloney then shifted to Cronulla in 2016. The Sharks had never won a premiership. His Midas touch helped Paul Gallen’s men realise a dream. The Sharks downed the Storm in a classic to win their maiden crown.
“James has made no secret of his sincere desire to finish his rugby league career with a stint in the Super League,” Panthers chairman Dave O’Neill said.
“Considering the outstanding service he has given to the Panthers over the last two seasons and to our game over the last decade, we believe he has earned that right.
“The overseas opportunity recently offered to James, his wife Jess and their young family is one they are genuinely excited about pursuing together.
“When we farewell James at the end of the season, we will do so knowing he has made an incredibly positive impact on our club and the next generation of players who will carry it forward.”
Maloney was happy with the legacy he was leaving at the foot of the mountains.
“I’ve left the club in a better position than when I arrived – hopefully the club’s benefited from having me here and I’ve enjoyed my time here.”
Former Panthers GM and one of the most respected minds in rugby league, Phil Gould, said recently that he believed Maloney was the most important signing in Penrith’s history.
“It’s always been the goal to finish up with a stint over there (Europe) and we’ve always sort of thought, in terms of lifestyle, the south of France would be a little better than the north of England,” Maloney recently told Triple M.