The Moylan-Maloney swap: Five burning issues

Eddie Otto Roar Pro

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    With James Maloney on the verge of signing with Penrith and Matt Moylan heading the other way to Cronulla, I’m taking a look at how thing might transpire for both players and clubs.

    1. Both players could benefit from a change
    I like this rare player swap because, firstly, it rarely happens in the NRL and, secondly, I believe both players could do with a change of scenery.

    Both Maloney and Moylan had hugely underwhelming seasons in 2016 for vastly different reasons. Maloney was a shadow of the player he was in 2016, giving away by far the most penalties in the NRL as well as missing crucial tackles and having a wildly inconsistent short kicking game. I think there is probably some truth to the fact he wasn’t happy with his $500,000 a year deal as he saw a bevy of playmakers earn big money deals.

    Moylan was bumped from fullback to number six as Dylan Edwards emerged as the Panthers’ first-choice fullback. Moylan wanted the move to six by all accounts but only showed glimpses of his best form and ended up sitting out the end of the season.

    Sometimes players need a change of environment to get them out of their comfort zone and, while Maloney has had plenty of that, Moylan looks a player that desperately needs to get out of Penrith given his relationship with the coach and the fact he never looked comfortable with the captaincy.

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    2. Penrith need a winner and Maloney is that player
    Penrith are a team that need big-game players who have won premierships and played in Origins. James Maloney won premierships in his first season at the Roosters and Sharks and made the grand final at the Warriors, who have not made the finals in the ensuing six seasons.

    While he is at the back end of his career, you can’t ignore the impact he had at those clubs – and the Sharks and Warriors are two clubs that had experienced a distinct lack of success before he arrived there.

    For me, Penrith are missing someone that can bring their talented rabble together. Maloney is 31 and coming off a poor season; however, when I look at Penrith the past two seasons I see a side that had the talent to win a title but not the mentality or the know-how. Last season’s game plan looked very basic, relying heavily on Nathan Cleary and unstructured offloads. They were pedestrian inside their opponents’ 20-metre zone for a side with a lot of weapons. I think Maloney will add some much-needed experience to this Panthers’ side as well as some structure and leadership to their roster.

    3. Moylan could thrive without the captaincy and under Flanagan
    For mine, Moylan never looked comfortable nor happy with the weight of the captaincy on him. It seemed like a bizarre choice at the time from Anthony Griffin, and Moylan eventually started to rebel against it. Perhaps the Panthers thought it would entice Moylan to sign long term, and that’s exactly what transpired.

    However, as we can see now, it may have backfired. By all reports Moylan is a very laid-back lad who isn’t the hardest trainer or known for rallying the troops behind the scenes. At Cronulla he will simply be allowed to let his footy do the talking, with a bevy of senior players and an experienced roster that will set standards.

    Coach Shane Flanagan seems to be very much a player’s coach in terms of how popular he is and how he gets the best out of some rough diamonds. Flanagan has been able to get players like Andrew Fifita and Ben Barba playing great football on the field. Moylan, much like Jarryd Hayne, is a bit of a free spirit, and while he is a risk, if the coach can coax the best out of him, the results could be spectacular.

    (Matt King/Getty Images)

    4. Is Moylan the next Darren Lockyer or Todd Carney in the Shire?
    While I’m not the biggest fan of Anthony Griffin as a coach, Matt Moylan will have nowhere to hide next season in terms of excuses. While Moylan is relatively young at 26, he should now be in the prime of his career and needs to get himself motivated and his head focused if he is to reach his potential.

    Some saw his move to five-eighth as the second coming of Darren Lockyer, but he could easily become the next Todd Carney in the Shire if he doesn’t rise up and go all-in with his football.

    I think it’s a concern that he missed finals games at the end of the season despite the fact the rumour mill was strong that physically he was fit to play. Like Kieran Foran, once you start missing games because of problems off the field, you’re damaged goods in some respects.

    The Shire has plenty of distractions and, with a few fellow rogues in that squad, Shane Flanagan could have his hands full to keep that squad focused should they get off to a poor start. There is no doubting Moylan’s talent though, and if he puts it all together, he could be in the top one or two five-eighths in the game.

    5. Which team finishes higher next season?
    The guys who set the markets clearly think the Panthers are the better side next season given they are $9 in the premiership market and the Sharks are $17. I had both clubs as teams that should make the top eight but were a step behind premiership heavyweights like the Roosters, Storm and Cowboys. Both clubs will make this move in anticipation that it can elevate them into that top bracket.

    The Panthers are out of excuses now as a young side on the rise, and Anthony Griffin for me is the man in the hot seat. He really needs to deliver next season, and by deliver I mean at least make a preliminary final, bar significant injuries.

    The Sharks have lost Jack Bird and will need Moylan to get somewhere near his best, as Chad Townsend is a functional halfback rather than someone who is going to scare teams. If forced to make a call this early, I believe Penrith have a better roster than the Sharks for next year. However, I trust the Shark’s coach more than Penrith’s coach when the whips are cracking in the finals.