NRL grand final: Sharks' James Maloney backed for Clive Churchill Medal

By Dean Ritchie

An absolute blinder from Cronulla's James Maloney rocketed the Sharks into their first Grand Final in almost 20 years. Photo / Getty Images.
An absolute blinder from Cronulla's James Maloney rocketed the Sharks into their first Grand Final in almost 20 years. Photo / Getty Images.

He doesn't stand much taller than the legendary Clive Churchill. Now Cronulla five-eighth James Maloney is firming to win the prestigous award named in honour of The Little Master.

Churchill stood 175cm, Maloney 176cm.

Maloney has firmed into third favourite to win man-of-the-match honours in Sunday's grand final - and take home one of the rugby league's most sought-after awards, the Clive Churchill Medal

And two Canberra legends - Bradley Clyde and Laurie Daley - have backed Maloney for Churchill Medal honours.

Storm stars Cooper Cronk and Cam Smith are joint $5 favourites with Maloney next on the betting line at $8, according to the New Zealand TAB. Then follows Ben Barba, Paul Gallen and Michael Ennis ($11) with Jesse Bromwich and Andrew Fifita paying $13.

Storm fullback Cameron Munster is paying $15 and Sharks back-rower Wade Graham $17.

Storm five-eighth Blake Green would seem decent value at $26 while Sharks tryscoring freak Val Holmes is paying a whopping $41, although wingers rarely win big-match awards.

Clyde, who won the Churchill Medal in 1989 and 1991, told The Daily Telegraph: "The fact that James has grand final experience along with his competitive nature will certainly help his chances.

"James knows what to do in the big games. It's about knowing what to do at the critical times to win a game and to put yourself in a position to be able to come up with the important plays.

"For James, there will be a couple of crucial times in the game that he will come up with the big play to secure a win."

Daley is an obvious Maloney fan given the Sharks five-eighth represented NSW in State of Origin this year.

"If Cronulla is to win, Jimmy will have to play well," Daley said. "Jimmy will have to get his side around the park and control the game and come up with some big plays.

"He is very experienced. This will be his third grand final with three different clubs. He was outstanding for us at Origin level this year and in 'club land' he has been the buy-of-the-year. Jimmy is in-form and I am assuming that he'll be ready to go"

- news.com.au

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