Maloney sends a message to Fittler
JAMES Maloney misses a few tackles.
At 83kg, it happens.
But the idea that he could somehow miss an entire Origin series?
Yet apparently, this is where it's now at for the Penrith No.6.
A fella who hasn't simply carried the Panthers through the opening third of the 2018 NRL season, but proved himself the greatest signing not named Kalyn Ponga.
Which is how it went again in this one.
Maloney orchestrating one try against Wests Tigers, kicking strongly and missing only one tackle.
Just as an aside, he also combined fairly well with some young halfback named Nathan Cleary.
And apparently, he's available for NSW, too.
But this week ... well, all the talk has been about other options.
particularly Mitchell Moses. And Luke Brooks.
The Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks who, while also on display in this one, wasn't in the same league as the two Panthers mentioned above.
And again, this yarn is about Maloney.
A side that continues to get up as its players go down injured.
And they do it, week after week, on grit.
With Maloney, too, the undeniable heartbeat.
But still, all the talk this week his been about those statistics, right?
The numbers which show the Panthers playmaker missing 62 tackles in 2018 - and a dozen in one performance against the Canterbury Bulldogs - to sit clearer at the top of the category than most of the racehorses he backs.
Which is an issue, sure.
But you know what? Maloney wins.
Won a premiership with the Roosters. Then doubled down with Cronulla.
Even got the Warriors into a grand final when such a thing seemed impossible.
And couldn't the Blues do with a little of that?
In fact, plenty of front bar debates will suggest this arvo that Maloney and Cleary, back after seven weeks on the sideline, are the Blues best option.
Not that they were outstanding against the Tigers. But with 22 penalties awarded across 80 minutes, who would be?
Plus everything good that came out of the Panthers, was started by one of its halves.
And for Maloney, his best moment came six minutes from the break.
When attacking the tryline, the Panthers No. 6 threw a long, looping pass over a pair of Tigers defenders to find winger Tyrone Phillips.
And sure, the flanker still put his signature on the rest.
Initially looking like he was set to burrow for the corner, Phillips then exploded up and over opposite David Nofoaluma, who having turned to follow the Steeden was now diving out to stop him.
But still, the try belonged to Maloney.
Yet as for Brooks?
Well, on a night when he was also said to be pushing his Origin claims, the Tigers seven struggled.
Outstanding against North Queensland a week earlier, Brooks suffered through an ordinary first half which included a dropped ball attacking the tryline, a forward pass attacking the tryline and two missed tackles in five attempts.
Worse, his first error - the spilt ball - came as the Tigers dominated position and possession.
After only 15 minutes, they led the penalty count six-one.
Heaping pressure on the Panthers defence when, shifting left ... Brooks spilt it.
Then with under 90 seconds to play, the No. 7 found another crucial error.
This time throwing a forward pass to forward Chris Lawrence as they again hammered the tryline.