James Maloney has one of the hardest jobs in tomorrow night's grand final but history suggests he will deliver.

The 30-year-old, who is playing in his third premiership decider in six years, will be one of the busiest men on the field.

Not only is he the senior playmaker in the Cronulla attack, with Chad Townsend very much the junior partner, but he will also have to cope with a Melbourne barrage coming his way.

As one of the smallest players in the competition (1.76m, 83kg), Maloney tends to get worked over on defence. He is regularly targeted and in 2016 only Ben Hunt has missed more tackles in the NRL. His technique has improved over the years, but players keep getting bigger and it is a tribute to his resilience that he fronts up week after week.


"They can send traffic at me and that's fine," said Maloney, who has averaged 3.5 missed tackles per game this year. "That's no dramas. I know what's coming there and I'll handle it. We will do the defensive work we need to and, when we get the ball, we'll make sure we go back at them, ask them some questions and make them defend and hang tough."

Despite his pedigree, Maloney remains an underrated player, perhaps because of his larrakin side. But he's a superb competitor and tomorrow will join a select group who have played grand finals for three different clubs.

The most recent were Krisnan Inu (Eels 2009; Warriors 2011; Bulldogs 2012) and Joe Galuvao (Panthers 2003; Eels 2009; Manly 2011). Others have included Kevin Campion (St George, Broncos and Warriors), Anthony Mundine (St George, Brisbane and St George-Illawarra), Phil Sigsworth (Newtown, Manly and Canterbury-Bankstown) and Glenn Lazarus is the only player to win with three different clubs (Raiders, Broncos and Storm).

Maloney made his name at Mt Smart, part of the 2011 Warriors team who enjoyed an improbable march to the grand final. Maloney was superb that year, with 10 tries, 16 try assists and a remarkable 68 running metres per game.

"It was only my second full year of first grade and it all happened pretty quickly," said Maloney. "I still had a lot to learn and at the time you go with it but when you look back now you realise how different it was."

The Warriors were soundly beaten by the Sea Eagles in that grand final, unable to test the Manly defence until the final quarter of the match.

"I've been around for a while now and I am a lot more experienced," said Maloney. "I know what to expect with these games having been in a couple already. I am in a good position in knowing my footy really well [and] knowing what I need to do come Sunday.

And similar to the Warriors' experience in 2011, the Sharks appearance in the grand final has been long awaited, with heavy expectation around the local area.

"You can see the excitement down in Cronulla," said Maloney. "The Shire is abuzz. They've waited a long time so hopefully we can get the job done. But there is a big 80 minutes ahead of us first."