James Maloney eager to repay Catalans faith in historic Super League Grand Final

When Catalans coach Steve McNamara was looking for an experienced playmaker that could take the Dragons to the next level, he had only one man in mind.

James Maloney had steered the Sydney Roosters team that McNamara was assistant coach for to the the NRL title in 2013, repeating the feat with Cronulla Sharks three years later.

“I’d seen first hand at the Roosters the influence that he has on the team and I knew that he could have a similar sort of impact here as well,” McNamara said.

On Saturday night at Old Trafford, 35-year-old Maloney will bring the curtain down on a full-time career that has also seen him be part of an Australian World Cup winning squad and play 14 bruising State of Origin games for New South Wales.

Yet instead of heading home, him, wife Jessica and their four children will remain in the south of France while he plays part-time for Lezignan, such has been the family’s connection with the region over the last two years.

“I’ve loved it here, it’s been everything I could have wished for,” Maloney said. “Originally the decision was made really easy for me because I had a good relationship with Steve Mac from working together in Australia.

“When he asked me, it had always been part of my plan to come over here – the climate and lifestyle in the south of France is probably a bit of an easier change from Australia than the north of England would be.

“It was always the first pick once I’d decided to come to Super League, and I knew they were putting together a quality roster so I’d have the chance to come here and have some success.

“Now my kids all speak really good French – the older three have been in school here for two years and the youngest is three. That’s such a cool experience for them – just in terms of going forward in their lives, being able to speak another language can offer some amazing opportunities.

“I’ve learned a bit but think it’s a lot harder work when you’re older! Fingers crossed we’ll have another couple of years here and I can improve a bit more.”

Before then though Maloney has a Grand Final to win – the first in Catalans’ 15-year history in Super League.

It’s something he’s keen to deliver for the Dragons’ charismatic owner Bernard Guasch after two years of funding the club through a global pandemic.

Maloney added: “He’s been enormous for the club. The owners of the English clubs have to come here once a year and seem to do everything they can to try and get out of it. Bernard fronts up every second week, he’s been phenomenal.

“It would mean the world to him I’m sure, and a lot of us boys owe him plenty for looking after us in every tough situation. He’s been outstanding, and it would be great to get the job done for him.”

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