Panthers star James Maloney says onus on players to turn season around against Warriors

Penrith star James Maloney has denied Ivan Cleary's game plan is at the root of the team's problems, insisting the onus is on the players to turn their fortunes around.

James Maloney. Source: Photosport

Cleary is under mounting pressure in his first season back at the Panthers after watching the pre-season title contenders slump to second last spot on the NRL table.

Their dire situation comes six months after his controversial return to the club, which followed the shock axing of Anthony Griffin a month out of the NRL finals.

Cleary was widely expected to elevate Penrith to another level, but instead the group have regressed and their finals hopes are rapidly extinguishing.

Maloney said their campaign has arrived at a crossroads.

"There's gotta come a time where collectively, everyone says enough's enough," Maloney said on Big Sports Breakfast on Tuesday.

One of Penrith's major issues is their attack, which has so far totalled just 117 points - three less than bottom-placed Canterbury.

It follows Cleary's only full season at the Wests Tigers, who eventually finished ninth but totalled just 377 points in attack - three points less than bottom-placed Parramatta.

However Maloney rejected suggestions Cleary's philosophies are the issue.

"I don't think it's system-based. If someone asked me at the start of the year how we were placed, I thought we were better placed this year than what we were last year," he said.

"I don't think it's anything to do with systems.

The biggest question has got to come down to the want and willpower. Everyone wants to turn it around but there's only one way to turn it around

"You can't just go out week to week going we've got a good roster and it'll just happen, because it won't."

Centre Waqa Blake is expected to return for Friday's match against the Warriors after being omitted from the loss to the Tigers for misreading a training schedule last week.

Senior Panthers players were consulted over the decision, which exposed the team's right-edge defence during the Tigers' 20-minute blitz last week.

Asked whether Blake understood the ramifications of his actions, Maloney said: "I think he's well aware of that.

"You can only imagine when he's sitting at home and the game's unfolding the way it (did), it amplified everything he was feeling."