A love letter to James Maloney

Tim Gore Columnist

By Tim Gore, Tim Gore is a Roar Expert

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    James Maloney is a winner, plain and simple. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

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    It has been so easy to hate James Maloney all of these years. So the sudden realisation – nay, epiphany – that I actually deeply love him came as a shock.

    But I love James Maloney. He is one of my favourite players in the NRL ever.

    I love the way he plays. I love his line breaking, line break and try assisting, and his blatant cheating. I even love his half-arsed defence. I love that he’s still a trouble-making, obnoxious teenager at the age of 31.

    The only thing that stopped me realising I loved Jimmy was that he didn’t play for my side. I mistook my extreme jealousy for loathing.

    Why would I be jealous, I hear you ask? In the past five seasons, no player has been worse in defence – the boy from Orange has personally missed 465 tackles in 124 games at an average of 3.8 a game. That’s as bad as Chris Sandow ever managed.

    Further, he has conceded more penalties than any other player, being pinged 130 times at an average of 1.1 a game. Serial cheat Michael Ennis only managed an average of 0.89 a game.

    How on Earth can I possibly love a player with such diabolical statistics?

    To quote the classics (Homer Simpson), “He gets results, you stupid chief!”

    Since the beginning of 2013, when Maloney joined the Roosters, he has an NRL winning percentage of 68.5 per cent. He has won 85 of the 124 games he has played, which included two premierships with two different clubs.

    In the same time frame, Johnathan Thurston has won 66 of the 102 NRL games he has played for a winning percentage of 64.7 per cent. Cam Smith has won 86 of his 120 NRL games since the start of season 2013 for 71.66 per cent.

    Like McGarnicle, Maloney certainly does get results. However, he doesn’t get the kudos the other two do.

    Maybe it’s because it is so easy to dislike him and to write him off as a just annoying.

    Ennis said that Maloney spent all six years of high school in detention and it is all too easy to believe. He certainly has that look of a troublemaker who takes joy in mucking up.

    While at the Roosters, the pre-recorded dancing-celebration-videos they showed of him on the big screen after he scored – which happened a lot – were obnoxiousness in its purest form, especially when it was your team he was scoring on. He danced with a smile and motion that said not only had he beaten you, he’d also eaten your steak, drank your beer and had your car towed.

    Watching him continually and deliberately infringe to stop opponents scoring is enough to drive even the mildest fan rabid with anger, especially since he never gets sin-binned when it is so obvious he is doing it on purpose. He is as seethrough as Jimbo Jones making moves on Laura Powers: “Hey baby, my shirt’s chafing me. Mind if I take it off?”

    When Gavin Badger finally sent him to the bin during the 2017 qualifying final, it truly shocked me.

    However, in reality, he is really likeable. In the tunnel before the Raiders-Sharks 2016 final, referee Matt Cecchin – who was waiting to do the coin toss – asked a passing Maloney if he was the captain.

    “You’ve got to be joking!” Maloney replied, taking off as fast as he could, lest someone press that responsibility upon him.

    After the match, he was left in charge of his toddler daughter and put her down while doing an interview. In true Maloney style, she shot off to the far side of Canberra Stadium for Jimmy to desperately chase at the conclusion of the interview. Their subsequent, joyous cuddles together were lovely to watch.

    You don’t want to admit it, but he’s cool. He’s like a Harrison Ford anti-hero wrapped up in a central-west, bogan package. You want him to hang out with you. To be your mate. You want to prank the prop forward with Jimmy by putting Dencorub in the big unit’s jocks pre-game – and then giggle with him around the corner like a school kid.

    You’d stop talking to your own five-eighth in order to get his attention, like a lovesick teenager.

    “Hi Jimmy. Watcha doin? Great game last week. You’re looking great. I don’t got any plans if you wanna hang out later…

    “Who? Him? No one. He’s just a friend…

    “You’re the best Jimmy. Call me?!”

    Wade Graham Cronulla Sharks

    Wade Graham is so lucky right now. (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

    But what of his dreadful defence, I hear you say. How could a statistician like myself possibly love a speedbump like Maloney? Averaging almost four missed tackles a game would see most players dropped.

    It is because his misses don’t lose games. Not when you’ve got Paul Gallen or Wade Graham or Boyd Cordner or Aiden Guerra next to you. And no one hires Jimmy Maloney to tackle. Any decent coach wants him to save his energy for attacking.

    And he attacks good. Real good.

    He was Jimmy on the spot for Sonny Bill Williams’ magical offload in the 2013 grand final and cut the Sea Eagles defence to pieces. He’s done that sort of thing countless times because his attacking instincts are razor sharp and deadly.

    Just look at these stats for the last five seasons:

    • 34 tries
    • 61 line breaks
    • 63 line break assists
    • 88 try assists
    • 213 tackle breaks
    • Two premierships

    The only one of those stats that he’s not in the top three for – out of all the other halves – is tackle breaks, where he comes in sixth.

    And that winning percentage again: 68.5 per cent.

    So why is it that he is now at his fifth club if he is clearly so influential? It is my theory that no one truly believes that the loveable rogue could be more than a minor player in all the success he has been a part of.

    However, Maloney was the key ingredient in both the Roosters and Sharks’ successes. And now he’s going to take Penrith for the ride of their lives.

    Like Danny Zuko in Grease, he looks like a no-good bum, but in reality he’s automatic, systematic and hyyyyyyydromatic.

    Penrith fans should stop bemoaning the departures of Matt Moylan and Bryce Cartwright, and start rejoicing that Jimmy Maloney has come to their team.

    Lord knows I’d be joyous if he’d come to mine.

    I love you, Jimmy.

    Tim Gore
    Tim Gore

    Tim has been an NRL statistician for ABC Radio Grandstand since 1999, primarily as part of their Canberra coverage. Tim has loved rugby league since Sterlo was a kid with lots of hair but was cursed with having no personal sporting ability whatsoever. He couldn't take a hit in footy, was a third division soccer player making up numbers, plays off 41 in golf and is possibly the world's worst cricketer ever. He has always been good at arguing the point though and he has a great memory of what happened. Follow Tim on Twitter.

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    The Crowd Says (71)

    • Roar Guru

      February 22nd 2018 @ 6:49am
      The Barry said | February 22nd 2018 @ 6:49am | ! Report

      Tim have you been partaking in a summer of love? You’ve come back all ‘get rid of the salary cap, man’ and ‘I love James Maloney dude’

      You’ve gone from Johnny Unitas to Joe Namath…

      • Columnist

        February 22nd 2018 @ 7:05am
        Tom Rock said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:05am | ! Report

        Now there’s a haircut you could set your watch to.

        • Roar Guru

          February 22nd 2018 @ 7:15am
          The Barry said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:15am | ! Report

          Free the Springfield two!

          • Columnist

            February 22nd 2018 @ 7:53am
            Tim Gore said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

            Maybe I’m actually Arman Tamzarian, Baz.
            Maybe I’ve been Arman the whole time and just didnt want to admit it.

        • Roar Guru

          February 22nd 2018 @ 9:05am
          spruce moose said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:05am | ! Report

          “It’s Krustirific Johnny Unitas. But is my lip meant to be bleeding like this?”


          • Roar Guru

            February 22nd 2018 @ 9:13am
            Emcie said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:13am | ! Report

            Come on guys, I love Family Guy as much as the next guy, but this has gone on long enough

            • February 22nd 2018 @ 9:42am
              Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:42am | ! Report

              I was wondering what this lot was banging on about

            • Roar Guru

              February 22nd 2018 @ 9:58am
              spruce moose said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report


              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 10:35am
                Emcie said | February 22nd 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

                not gonna lie, bit disappointed with the lack of bites

            • Roar Guru

              February 22nd 2018 @ 10:51am
              Edward L'Orange said | February 22nd 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

              Them’s fightin’ words.

        • Roar Guru

          February 22nd 2018 @ 10:21am
          The Barry said | February 22nd 2018 @ 10:21am | ! Report

          It’s time for a good old-fashioned hippie ass-whomping!

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2018 @ 10:22am
        AJ Mithen said | February 22nd 2018 @ 10:22am | ! Report

        Baz, just wait until the raiders lose by 2 in round one… Normal programming will resume!

        • February 22nd 2018 @ 4:50pm
          Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | February 22nd 2018 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

          I’ll be waiting with baited breath. It’ll be a toss up between the ineptitude of the refs, lack of FTA coverage, TPAs, the salary cap, Tony Archer, Todd Greenberg, and the ridiculously unfair draw that pitted the Raiders against the Titans juggernaut first up. Just kidding Tim. Love your passion.

    • Roar Guru

      February 22nd 2018 @ 7:38am
      Dutski said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:38am | ! Report

      Tim, I always love your articles articles and today is no exception. I won’t try and keep up with you and The Barry with the Simpson quotes, though.
      I’ve always liked Maloney. There is something of the lovable larrikin about him. I was actually wanting to do an article comparing his stats with Cronk and Thurston and posing the question as to why he is not considered in the same league. I know people will very quickly supply me with their reasons why he’s not. But I was super disappointed when he left the roosters. You’re spot on – Jimmy’s a winner through and through. He plays with this cheeky smile, but you won’t find anyone who competes harder than he does.

      • Columnist

        February 22nd 2018 @ 7:55am
        Tim Gore said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:55am | ! Report

        When he’s never played for you it takes a bit longer to figure that out.

      • February 22nd 2018 @ 2:45pm
        ja ja klazo said | February 22nd 2018 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

        I was also super disappointed when he left the Roosters. I mean this as no slight on Keary, I think he will have a massive year outside Cronk, but it would have loved have been great to see the combination of Cronk and Maloney. They are bit of chalk and cheese but I think it would be fire.

    • Roar Guru

      February 22nd 2018 @ 7:52am
      Emcie said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      He’s probably at his 5th club cos no one can put up with him for more than a couple seasons

      • Columnist

        February 22nd 2018 @ 8:08am
        Tim Gore said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:08am | ! Report

        But what a couple of seasons!

      • Roar Rookie

        February 22nd 2018 @ 8:14am
        Fats1996 said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report

        I have certainly heard that he is consistently James Maloney 24/7.

    • February 22nd 2018 @ 7:53am
      BA Sports said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Ahh McGonigle, eases the pain…

      • Columnist

        February 22nd 2018 @ 7:54am
        Tim Gore said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:54am | ! Report

        Well they killed young Jimmy, McGarnicle. Cut his throat from ear to ear.

        • February 22nd 2018 @ 8:04am
          BA Sports said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:04am | ! Report

          Hey! I’m trying to eat my lunch here!

        • Roar Guru

          February 22nd 2018 @ 9:05am
          spruce moose said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:05am | ! Report

          Jimmy was a sissy boy who was too scared to tell the cops.

    • February 22nd 2018 @ 8:30am
      Greg said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      Total missed tackles is a misleading stat. You also need to look at how many they make, you could argue that Maloney is a better defender than players like Tuivasa-Sheck who misses 36% of his tackle attempts.

      • Columnist

        February 22nd 2018 @ 8:49am
        Tim Gore said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:49am | ! Report

        Nothing misleading about 3.8 misses a game.
        And RTS is mopping up behind the warriors defense

        • February 22nd 2018 @ 11:54am
          Greg said | February 22nd 2018 @ 11:54am | ! Report

          The more you make, the more chance you have of missing some. Hard to miss 3.8 tackles per game when you’re only attempting 3 tackles per game…..it’s all about the % of misses per attempts.

          • February 22nd 2018 @ 1:26pm
            KenW said | February 22nd 2018 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

            Yeah but a tackle isn’t a tackle either. Maloney is constantly protected by the best defenders on his team sitting on his shoulder trying to take his load and ensure he’s never left alone. RTS is usually marking someone at full speed with room to move, one-on-one. Hardly a fair comparison.

            • Columnist

              February 22nd 2018 @ 7:11pm
              Tim Gore said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

              What Ken said

      • February 22nd 2018 @ 8:50am
        BA Sports said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        Yes but many of RTS misses would be him coming across in cover defence and being carried over the try line. He is making an effort, but probably couldn’t have stopped the try in any event. Not saying RTS is a good or bad defender, but it isn’t uncommon for fullbacks to have those kind of numbers.

        It is like line breaks. Wingers get given plenty of line breaks when all they do is catch the ball, run two metres and put it down over the line. While centres and 5/8’s probably create more of their own line breaks by the angles they run and support play off of forwards. They all count for the same thing, but some are easier than others.

        • February 22nd 2018 @ 11:58am
          Greg said | February 22nd 2018 @ 11:58am | ! Report

          RTS doesn’t have 110kg front rowers running at him all game like Maloney does. Maloney will often get them to ground and another team mate will finish them off, it’s pretty rare Maloney actually lets through a line break or try, the Sharks had the second best defence in the comp last year which wouldn’t be possible if Maloney was a turnstyle.

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2018 @ 8:52am
        Emcie said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        Maloney misses about 38% of his tackles though, so that doesn’t work

        • February 22nd 2018 @ 11:52am
          Greg said | February 22nd 2018 @ 11:52am | ! Report

          34% according to NRL.com

          • Roar Guru

            February 22nd 2018 @ 12:43pm
            Emcie said | February 22nd 2018 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

            38% according to foxsports, either way thats every third tackle at least

            • February 22nd 2018 @ 1:30pm
              Greg said | February 22nd 2018 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

              i’m not saying he’s a good defender, but he’s definitely not the worst in the league

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 1:37pm
                Emcie said | February 22nd 2018 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

                According to the stats he pretty much is though, by a fair margin.

                I don’t think anyone is saying that he’s not a quality player, but a defender he is not. Nothing wrong with that

              • February 22nd 2018 @ 1:58pm
                mushi said | February 22nd 2018 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

                But the effectiveness of long kicking actually has a massively higher influence on your defence than effective tackle percentage.

                So in general the long kicking half is actually the most influential defender on your team.

              • Roar Rookie

                February 22nd 2018 @ 2:53pm
                Don said | February 22nd 2018 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

                He is the worst defender in the NRL.
                But watching others, there’s not much between him Milford and Luke Brooks.

                And Maloney was even worse when he was at the Warriors. I expect him to miss more this year than the past few.
                The Panthers aren’t as good defensively as the Roosters and Sharks..,

              • February 22nd 2018 @ 3:54pm
                Mushi said | February 22nd 2018 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

                Worst tackler, not worst defender.

              • Columnist

                February 22nd 2018 @ 7:13pm
                Tim Gore said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:13pm | ! Report

                Mitchell Moses and Luke brooks are the worst defenders

    • February 22nd 2018 @ 8:43am
      Dave said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      I agree that Maloney is a champion player. He was totally devastating at the Roosters, when he left they went basically from first place to last place – that is how much influence he has on a team. He makes every player around him play better, which is the greatest attribute of all.

      His defence is actually not as bad as the stats indicate, he is small and gets bumped off tackles but he is actually pretty committed in his tackles and not bad at stopping players on his own goal line.

      • February 23rd 2018 @ 1:25pm
        Mushi said | February 23rd 2018 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

        Let’s calm the farm.

        Roosters also lost the top metres maker in the comp, had a dog of an Australia day, and has injuries to cordner, injured JWH and I think guerra.

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