Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has revealed the selfless gesture made by James Maloney in backing up less than 48 hours after NSW's State of Origin triumph.
With Nathan Cleary still recovering from an ankle injury that ruled him out of Origin, Maloney steered the Panthers ’to a 24-2 route of Gold Coast on Friday.
The 33-year-old veteran set up two tries in a vintage performance that helped Penrith move into the top eight for the first time this season. Cleary admitted being tempted to play son Nathan before Maloney intervened.
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"I just can't thank him enough, really," Ivan said.
“(James had) actually got on the phone (on Thursday) to me. I think he had about an hour's sleep, and he said, "Don't play Nathan." I'll be right.
“That's what you want from a senior player and one of your best players.
"And he certainly backed it up."
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Ivan declared Nathan would be a certain starter for next Friday's clash with St George Illawarra as the Panthers attempt to extend their winning streak to seven.
Nathan wants to reunite with Maloney, who is unlikely to be the rest of the year.
“It's probably more about training with Jimmy, a guy his age. He got a week off suspension and a few weeks back, so at least he had one game off, "Ivan said.
“But we definitely manage the next few weeks for him and just see how he goes.
"He's also on a bit of a roll too and we can't really afford to (rest)."
Maloney had plenty of support against the Titans, particularly from youngsters Brent Naden (224 meters) and Jarome Luai (two try assists).
The performance comes just a few weeks after Ivan conceded Penrith were ready to “put down” in the middle of a six-game losing streak prior to their new run.
“We've got a bit of an injection. It must've been the other one, "Ivan said.
“It doesn't feel like it at the time, but we definitely learn a fair bit out of that. It was just one of those phases where it was pretty horrible to go through.
“But it seems like a long time gone now. We've a completely different side now and I still feel like we've got the best in front of us.
"Considering probably a lot of teams are just scratching their way through time of the year, I feel like we're building."
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