National

Maloney’s boot proves crucial for Blues

By AAP Newswire

He's the clutch super boot who proved the difference during NSW's drought-breaking State of Origin series win.

But James Maloney has revealed he now works on his kicking less than he has at any point in his career.

While it went largely unnoticed, Maloney's three-from-three conversion attempts ultimately proved the difference in the Blues' 18-14 game two victory.

Both sides scored three tries, however, Queensland's Valentine Holmes struggled with his three attempts out wide, potting just one.

Maloney revealed he had only been practising his craft sparingly this season after earlier in the year handing over Penrith kicking duties to Nathan Cleary.

Even after Cleary was sidelined with a knee injury suffered in round three and Maloney resumed taking conversion attempts, he only did enough to stop himself from getting rusty.

"I'm probably doing less now," Maloney told AAP.

"I've been doing it for so long.

"And at the start of the year with Nathan being the dominant kicker and me being a back-up.

"When he went down I did a little bit more in games, I kept it ticking over."

For all his nonchalance about his kicking, the influential Blues playmaker boasts the NRL's best goal-kicking stats this year at 86.9 per cent.

He describes it as an under-appreciated element of the game and points to the fact Queensland broke NSW's hearts by just a couple of points on numerous occasions over the past 13 years.

When Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith retired form representative football this year, it left the Maroons without an established goal kicker.

Holmes has done a commendable effort to fill the breach this year but he has never been a first-choice kicker at club level.

"In State of Origin, there's never much in it, it's important," Maloney said.

"Being on the end of some narrow losses because of Thurston or someone kicking goals.

"It was important when Val missed that first one (in game two), my head straight away went to 'this could be a difference here'."

Despite the high-pressure environment, Maloney said he had felt relaxed behind the tee this Origin series.

"The hardest thing I've found is you're kicking under fatigue," Maloney said.

"I felt good for each kick and it helps.

"As soon as you're completely knackered and sitting there trying to kick and trying to talk yourself into not getting lazy, your mind goes elsewhere with the kick."