'He'd definitely be in the mix' - James Maloney backs Nathan Cleary for NSW Origin shot

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AAP

Penrith recruit James Maloney is reluctant to start the State of Origin hype early, but sees no reason why he and young halves partner Nathan Cleary can't do the job for NSW.

Nathan Cleary of the Panthers is tackled by Bodene Thompson of the Warriors.

Nathan Cleary of the Panthers is tackled by Bodene Thompson of the Warriors.

Source: Photosport

Maloney left Cronulla for the Panthers in a high-profile swap with former Penrith skipper Matt Moylan late last year.

A veteran of nine Origins and a member of Australia's recent Rugby League World Cup campaign, Maloney says he will embrace his senior role at the Panthers and help Cleary take his game to another level.

"I think everyone's pretty young, that's the first thing you notice, not many old boys out here," Maloney said when asked of his first thoughts on the Penrith set-up.

"I think there's untapped potential here and I'm here to try and make that potential turn into something special."

The 31-year-old's combination with 20-year-old halfback Cleary will be front and centre of that project.

"It's pretty impressive what he's done at a young age but no doubt it'll be tougher the longer he goes on, the more heat that will come on him," Maloney said.

"I might have the opportunity to guide him in some sort of way and he could probably show me a thing or two in certain parts.

"It always starts early, the Origin talk ... that'll be my goal to be back there again and I think Nathan's obviously there and he'd definitely be in the mix."

Maloney was part of the Warriors' side who lost to Manly in the 2011 NRL grand final before playing in premiership-winning teams at Sydney Roosters in 2013 and the Sharks in 2016.

Coach Anthony Griffin said that experience would help the talent-laden side avoid another slow start.

"We're not going to burn him straight way with wanting him to be anything else other than one of the players in our team ... but obviously as a playmaker and as a half he's going to have some responsibility there," Griffin said.

"He's got a lot of experience ... him coming in with our group, it'll obviously help the playmakers and the whole group. Hopefully that leads to a better start for us."

Griffin also wished Moylan well but said his exit was a situation they'd love to avoid in the future.

"It's not what we wanted, I'm sure it's not what Matt wanted as well," he said.

"You never want to have a conflict like that but it happened, we all learnt something out of it and I'm sure Matt learnt something out of it as well and we wish him the best at Cronulla."

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