Maloney to fight for fairytale NRL exit
It would be a perfect way for James Maloney to bid au revoir to the NRL.
But the Penrith star James Maloney admits there is plenty of water to go under the bridge before dreaming of a possible third premiership to farewell Australia.
The Panthers on Wednesday confirmed 33-year-old Maloney will be released from the final year of his contract to take a three-year deal with France-based Catalans Dragons after this season.
"Obviously I'm not getting any younger. The opportunity that arose, it's hard to knock back," Maloney told reporters on Wednesday.
"It's always been the goal to go over and play in the Super League and to play at Catalans in France was always the preferred option.
"For that to become available and for the club to enable me to take the opportunity, I'm really grateful."
Few have achieved as much in the NRL as Maloney who has built a reputation as a winner over his 11 years in the top grade with five different clubs - Melbourne, Warriors, Sydney Roosters, Cronulla and the Panthers.
The wily playmaker has appeared in three grand finals with three different teams, winning the title with the Roosters in 2013 and with Cronulla in 2016.
He lost with the Warriors in 2011.
Should he claim a third title with the Panthers, he would join champion front-rower Glenn Lazarus in having lifted the trophy at three different clubs.
Maloney has also played 14 State of Origin games for NSW, the key playmaker in series win over Queensland for the past two years, and three Tests for the Kangaroos.
But a third premiership would be the ultimate NRL ending.
It would be some feat for Maloney and his Penrith teammates, who have dragged themselves back into contention with a seven-game winning streak.
After sitting in last spot in mid-May, they are in seventh spot with six rounds to go before the eight-team finals series.
"There'd be no denying (a premiership) would be the ultimate goal, but we're a long way from that at the moment," Maloney said.
"(But) it gives me a real steely focus for the remainder of this year, knowing that this is going to be it.
"We're a long way from that, but we're in a position to be able to build and hopefully have a crack.
"Plenty of hard work to go but we'll see where we get to."
Panthers chairman Dave O'Neill said the club was always aware of Maloney's plans to finish his career with a stint in the Super League.
"Considering the outstanding service he has given to Panthers over the last two seasons and to our game over the last decade, we believe he has earned that right," O'Neill said.
"The overseas opportunity recently offered to James, his wife Jess, and their young family is one they are genuinely excited about pursuing together.
"When we farewell James at the end of the season, we will do so knowing he has made an incredibly positive impact on our club and the next generation of players who will carry it forward."
The Panthers will celebrate Maloney's achievements at the final home game of the regular season on Sunday, September 8.
© AAP 2019